Little Sister’s Birth Story: A VBAC Adventure

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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Our beautiful girl, Little Sister, was born on May 30th, 2012. We are not only overjoyed to have this special baby in our lives, we’re also so proud of the birth experience that we created for Little Sister – and for ourselves. Did I achieve the 100% natural birth that I had envisioned? Not exactly. Do I fully embrace the beautiful and empowering epidural-free VBAC that we achieved? Yes. I embrace it, and I honestly couldn’t be more proud of myself and of my amazing support team – my husband, Jeff, and my doula, Jen. My midwives were also everything I hoped they would be.

Sitting down to write this story eight days after giving birth, I am still blown away by the emotion, power, and beauty of the birth experience. What a very special window into the transforming cycle of life we are given! Do I feel like my C-section birth experience with my son 23 months ago was any less of a birth experience? No. We did everything we could to achieve a natural birth, and he staunchly stayed in the same breech position for most of my pregnancy, indicating that his birth was not about following a plan. This provided us with one of our first and most important lessons of parenting: Trust in your child, and follow along with love, and no matter what your expectations, you will still have an amazing experience.

And now, I will try my best to find words for Little Sister’s birth story. Some details might be a bit off, but it’s how the story exists in my memory at this point:

Throughout the night of May 28th into the morning of May 29th, I had fairly regular contractions while I slept. I hesitate to call these tightening sensations contractions knowing what the full deal feels like later, but early labor contractions they were nonetheless. My husband went to work on the morning of the 29th, but I stayed in close contact with him over instant message as I sent messages throughout the day like: “I don’t know if you’re going to make it through the full day of work” and “I really don’t think you’ll be going to work tomorrow”. The tightening sensations, which now sometimes included a small degree of pain, were coming anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes apart, but they didn’t have a regular pattern.

Jeff left work a little early and got home around 4:30 pm. The contractions definitely hurt a bit more now, but I was still able to eat a regular dinner. The consistency and degree of pain of the contractions quickly sped up, but I was still experiencing enough denial to text my doula that we were going to try to get some sleep. I quickly realized it would be absolutely impossible to sleep through this level of contractions.

Jeff quickly mastered the double hip squeeze, and this position basically became my new best friend for much of my labor experience. I don’t know how Jeff’s arms were even functioning after squeezing my hips with all of his strength for most of the contractions in my 14 hours of active labor, but somehow he made it through.

All of the positions that I had anticipated as being the most helpful in labor were impossible for some reason. I felt like I couldn’t do anything that involved leaning over at all – so the all fours position, leaning forward on the birth ball, the slow dance position with my hubby all went out the window. My son’s Learning Tower was exactly the right height for me to hold on and lean against, and that was as bent over as I could get. I also found that pushing my pelvis forward throughout contractions – kind of like creating my own counterpressure – was the only positioning that would actually help a bit.

Our amazing doula, Jen of Mama-Born Doula Services, arrived at 10something at night when I was consistently about 7 minutes between contractions. She suggested setting out a tray of food for me to nibble at to give me strength, but I had no appetite at all and was barely able to eat anything. She also used some wonderful massage techniques with shea butter and my choice of essential oils, but for some reason the oils were actually too much for me to deal with whenever I had a contraction. By the time Jen arrived, I was getting into a place where it was very difficult for me to focus on anything outside of myself and what I was feeling. I spoke as little as possible – although looking back, I was practically a chatterbox at this point in comparison with the barely understandable cave woman speak I would be using later on.

About an hour later, contractions were five minutes apart. We called the midwife and she said that when I’ve had contractions 5 minutes apart for two hours, then I should call her back and it would be time to make the trip to the hospital (35 minutes away). At around 12:45 am, I really needed to rest. I had been standing through pretty much all of labor so far, so Jeff and Jen helped me get in a side lying position on my bed and continued to do the double hip squeeze through contractions. It was less effective this way, and I was definitely more uncomfortable, but I really felt the need to be off my feet for a bit.

At around 1:15 am, I realized I was having a decent amount of bleeding so we called the midwife and by 1:30 am we were getting ready to go to the hospital. My mother-in-law had made the two hour drive and arrived at some point after Jen got to the house so it was really nice to not have to worry about Big Brother at all. My parents were also on their way and were probably about two hours into their four hour drive at this point. Jeff, Jen, and I arrived at the hospital at 2something am where I noticed more bleeding. My water was breaking gradually at this point too. I had an internal check – my first of the pregnancy – and the midwife said I was 4 cm dilated and 100% effaced. It was really nice to know my work at home had been productive. I should also add that I had been very anxious about being in active labor while in the car, and for some magical reason, my breathing – and squeezing Jeff’s hand, seemed more than enough to get me through the ride. I felt so thankful for this throughout the drive!

From my first moments at the hospital, I was very glad to see that my wishes and birth plan directives were being easily and positively accepted. It really helped to put me at ease. The atmosphere was relaxed, and from the little things – like being able to wear my own clothes rather than a hospital gown, to the big things – like refusing constant monitoring which is hospital policy for a VBAC, I felt like the midwives heard me and supported my decisions.

Hours melt into more hours from this point forward, and I have no concept of time. The double hip squeeze became ineffective at some point and my legs were shaking and could barely hold me. I was still getting through contractions on my feet. Breathing was key, and at some point, I just let go and added sounds to the breathing that helped make the breaths seem more productive.

Someone encouraged me to sit in the shower for a while, and although I was really nervous about sitting and that making the contractions harder, I tried it and loved it. Jeff and Jen took turns moving the showerhead’s spray in a circular motion around my belly during contractions and this helped SO much.

At some point while I was sitting in the shower, Jeff brought in his phone or the computer and it was playing songs from my labor playlist. I specifically remember listening to Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap and having a surreal moment. Jeff and I had danced to this song at our wedding, and while experiencing contractions, I kind of watched images from our life together unfold, beginning with our wedding and leading up to that moment of intense labor in the shower. It felt magical and I appreciated the moments of larger perspective.

At some point in the morning, after the full night of very intense labor, I knew I needed help to keep going. I felt like I barely had the strength to stand and that my legs couldn’t hold me anymore. It was too painful to lie down. In retrospect, this is where a birth tub would have been immensely helpful, but the hospital didn’t have any. I started telling Jen and Jeff that I needed some medication after the midwife (I think) suggested this to me as an option besides an epidural, which everyone knew I did not want. Jen and Jeff did a really fantastic job doing everything I had hoped they would do in this situation. They asked tons of questions, they probed me with questions and distractions, they researched information about the suggested medication, they asked about alternatives. They did all the things my normal, sane, not-in-labor self would tell them to do. We came to a consensus that I would get an internal check and see how much progress had been made. After all of those grueling hours, I had only progressed from 4cm to 6cm. This made the decision to take some medication easy for me, and this is the part of my birth story that was not part of my plan, but something that I fully embrace because I have no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision for me.


The beauty of taking this medication was that it didn’t diminish or change the feeling of the contractions; it simply enabled me to have moments of rest. I still VERY fully experienced them and used breath and sounds to get through them. The difference was that I could finally lie down and rest between contractions rather than shaking and struggling on my feet. A couple of hours or so later, I started to experience the contractions differently and started working through transition. The urge to bear down came naturally, and no one ever told me to push. I just pushed when my body told me too. I remember the room feeling very quiet and serene as I thought about how amazing the whole birth process was. Again I reflected on how cool it was to remove myself from my body enough to think about this. Pushing was such a satisfying, productive feeling. I thought about all of the birth scenes in movies where someone is yelling: Push! and the mama-to-be is screaming. This pushing experience was as opposite from that as could be, and I was told after that I only had to actively push for 5 minutes.

Birth

We meet face to face for the first time.

I watched Little Sister being born in a large mirror at 10:56 am, and she was immediately placed on my chest. We were still connected by the umbilical cord, and it wasn’t until some time later that Jeff cut the cord after it had stopped pulsing. We enjoyed skin to skin contact, and she successfully latched and began to nurse within 30 minutes. I think she nursed for about an hour. The environment was calm, relaxed, and filled with love.
dad and newborn

Dada holds Little Sister for the first time.


Little Sister remained in my arms – and in Jeff’s arms for a bit – for a couple of hours. It was only then that we finally weighed and measured her: 7 lbs, 11 oz and 20 inches long. For the rest of our time in the hospital, our birth plan continued to be followed easily and attentively by all hospital personnel. Little Sister didn’t receive her first bath until the following day where I bathed her in our room with our own Earth Mama-Angel Baby Organic Angel Baby Wash. She slept close to me at all times and nursed like a champ, as she still continues to do. Our wonderful midwives were thrilled to be part of a VBAC, and it was so nice to hear their excitement as well as positive feedback from so many others in the hospital.
birth

Bliss


As I type this with one hand, holding a sleeping Little Sister with the other hand, and listening to Big Brother and Dada play outside, I am overwhelmed with how blessed I am to have this beautiful family. I feel so lucky to have these amazing people in my life, and I also feel so thankful for the experiences that have led me to them.

first bath

First bath



co-sleeping newborn

Our first night together



newborn girl

Our beautiful girl



Visit Wordless Wednesday: Introducing Little Sister! to see more pictures of our brand new girl.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • I was Foolish Then — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes how foolish lack of preparation for childbirth led to a feeling of powerlessness and fear, but that in the end she had her baby in her arms, and that’s one thing she can celebrate.
  • Sometimes no plan is the best plan — Tat at Mum in search contemplates that maybe she doesn’t need a birth plan for her upcoming birth.
  • Disturbing the peace — Kenna at Million Tiny Things thought she would be a calm, quiet baby-haver. Ha!
  • Accepting the Unexpected During Birth — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM imagined herself laboring on a birthing ball but she never imagined where she’d really be most comfortable when the time came…
  • Sacred This Time, Too — Kimber at The Single Crunch learned enough to know that the way she birthed wasn’t they way she wanted to; but she also knew to enjoy it for what it was.
  • The Birth Partner: A Great Natural Labor Companion — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger thinks that the secret to her pleasant natural labors was having a great support system.
  • the Best Thing About My Labor ExperienceCrunchy Con Mommy realizes that amidst all the things that seemed to go wrong with her labor, the love and support of her husband was the one thing she could always count on!
  • Your Birth Was My FavoriteDulce de leche describes some of the highlights from each of her four births and explains why despite the differences, they are all her favorites.
  • Birth Story: Part One – Moon on a Stick! Gentle Mama Moon tells the first part of her birth story to share some of the delight of labouring at home.
  • Embracing My Birth Experience by Sharing My Birth Story — Dionna at Code Name: Mama made peace with her first birth by sharing the story with her son.
  • Focusing on the Beauty of Birth — Julia at A Little Bit of All of It shares the beautiful aspects of her birth center water birth.
  • A Joyful Induced Delivery — Amy Willa: Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work notes the meditations and perspective that helped her achieve an unmedicated birth despite being induced for medical reasons.
  • Finding Joy in an Imperfect Childbirth Experience — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells what she learned from her two very different childbirth experiences.
  • What’s to like about a c-section? — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama is glad she her second child at home, but she also cherishes much about the c-section she had four years earlier.
  • What Story Will I Tell? — Rachael at The Variegated Life realizes that the way she tells the story of her second child’s birth matters — and could be exhilarating.
  • I Quietly Put My Hopes to Rest E — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her emotional ups and downs with the highly intervened birth of her special needs daughter, Bella.
  • Tale of Six Births — Jessica at Instead of Institutions appreciates that unique challenges and joys of each of her births.
  • Labouring naturally: nature’s gift — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the most beautiful, spiritual aspect of the labour of her son, the first stages along a bumpy road to giving birth.
  • All The Woman I Am. — Lindsay at This Woman’s Work shares a poem about letting go and surrendering during the thralls of labor.
  • A twin birth story: embracing the unexpected — Megan at The Boho Mama shares her twin birth experience and how she found the silver lining when faced with preterm labor, premature birth, and a two-week NICU stay.
  • Giving Birth With Eminem — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how fiery rap music contributed to an empowered homebirth with her third baby.
  • Two Different Births — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares how she learned from her first birth experience and how to trust yourself and your body.
  • Embracing Our Potential: Birth as a Metaphor — Sheila from A Living Family guest posts at Natural Parents Network and expresses how birth has served as a metaphor to help her through other experiences in life.
  • Little Sister’s Birth Story: Our VBAC Adventure — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama describes the recent birth story of her baby girl, her pride in an epidural-free VBAC, and how her story isn’t exactly the birth experience she had planned for.
  • A Journey in Birth Confidence — Shannon at The Artful Mama shares her experiences with labor during both of her sons’ births.

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