From the moment I drove home from the hospital after delivering my firstborn via unplanned c-section under general anesthesia, I knew I wanted to give birth vaginally if we had more children. I spent the next two years learning everything I could about VBAC and the culture around birth. It was also during this time that I found the online birth community, specifically, Birth Without Fear. This community was so uplifting and transformative for me.
I found out I was pregnant after a vacation to Door County. This pregnancy, like my first, was fairly easy on me physically. But emotionally, I was all over the place. I was scared of a repeat c-section, I was scared that I would believe what some of my previous doctors told me, that I wouldn’t be able to VBAC. Ultimately, I was scared of going through the same experience.
Fast-forward to my 8 week appointment at the new SSM Health Midwife clinic. I was greeted by Kate, the sweetest nurse, who took my vitals. Little did she know, in my mind I was ready to fight for what I knew I deserved in order to be “allowed” to VBAC. I sat in the chair alone next to my folder full of articles and ACOG guidelines with my mind racing. A few minutes later, in walks the midwife Emily. Almost instantly, the pace my mind was racing calmed down as she had the most calm demeanor and friendly smile. She sat down and we chatted and over the next hour, she held my hand as I told her my birth story. We cried together and suddenly, I knew I was in the right hands. I didn’t even need all my resources, since she wanted this VBAC for me as much as I did. I knew from that appointment on that I was in the right place with the right people. I had found the most important piece, an incredibly supportive care provider team.
Over the course of my pregnancy I did everything possible to keep my body healthy and aligned. I was also dedicated to keeping a heathy mind and sought therapy throughout this pregnancy to be sure that I was able to work through my fears and emotions. The baby was incredibly heathy all along. After 40 weeks, we started keeping a close eye on my health and the baby. Thankfully, we were both healthy. After the longest two weeks of my life, I was approaching 42 weeks. I made the decision to be induced the morning of 42 weeks which was Friday, May 3rd. I knew baby needed to be born with a little help from his mama.
At 6am I drove myself to the hospital and thought “today is a great day to have a baby!” I was ready. I was greeted by my midwife, Kim, who was such a joy that morning. We laughed and chatted about how we are finally going to meet this baby! The plan was to use a combination of the foley bulb catheter and low-dose Pitocin. I was able to use the nitrous oxide gas as Kim placed the foley bulb. It was uncomfortable but not painful. We were off on this induction journey!
Over the next few hours after Jesse arrived, we decorated our room. Kim helped hang the affirmations over the bed and the tub. I tried to rest but I was too excited, we were doing this! Jesse and I walked the halls and just reflected on how different this all felt, in such a good way. We felt incredibly supported. After we got back from one of the walks I used the bathroom and felt like I needed to push a bit and out fell the foley bulb! That meant I was around 4cm dilated! I had been feeling contractions but they were likely from the foley dilating my cervix. Things were moving! The next few hours I knew were critical. I needed to start dilating on my own. I started getting nervous and would keep a close eye on the monitors, watching for validation that I was contracting enough. I needed a distraction.
Little did I know, Jesse and Nicole, our birth photographer, were both in on a secret surprise. I was on the toilet again hoping that would bring baby down and I hear voices in the room. I quickly get up to see who it is and to my surprise it was Nicole! I didn’t know she was coming so soon! The next thing I hear is a very familiar voice from my Instagram feed, January Harshe! I was shocked. One of the most influential people in my journey to VBAC was standing in my labor room. We hugged, laughed and shared stories around birth and motherhood. It was exactly what I needed to distract me and get some oxytocin flowing! I started contracting again. They were such welcome sensations as I knew things were moving again.
After January left, Kim came back in to let me know that she was leaving for the day and that Emily would be taking over as my midwife. Kim also crouched down and held my hands and told me how proud she was of me and that however this birth unfolds, she was so proud. She reminded me that this is a new story and it will all be different. We both cried and I have her the biggest hug. I felt so supported and uplifted.
Just like she did at my 8 week appointment, in walked Emily and almost instantly my nerves calmed. She is and always has been, such a calming presence for me. We talked about the plan for the rest of the day and she sat with us for a while and chatted. It was about mid-afternoon and my contractions were still there but a bit irregular. I was watching the monitors with every contraction. I was getting in my own head. Both Emily and the nurse realized this and turned the monitor screens off in my room and left us alone. I got some rest and watched an episode of Parenthood. It was just enough of a distraction that my contractions really started to pick up. We were keeping in touch with our Doula, Tammy, who told us to keep resting and walking.
Mid to late afternoon arrived and things were getting real. I wasn’t laughing through contractions anymore as I needed to breathe through them. In the back of my mind, all of these sensations were so welcomed. I wasn’t registering them as pain, just a sensation that would bring me closer to my baby. Emily was now with us for the rest of the day it seemed. I was really breathing through contractions and at the same time, worried about keeping baby in an optimal position. We called Tammy again to ask her if there is anything we should be doing and on that phone call I had a few contractions that I needed to really breathe through.
Emily suggested I try to get in the tub. I was worried it might slow things down, but with the next few contractions I had, I knew I needed a physical change. They started filing up the tub and I got in. Almost instantly as the water rose above my hips, everything relaxed. I felt my mind leave for labor land, something I had never experienced before. Emily held the shower head over my lower back and my whole body relaxed. I was forward-leaning over the side of the tub with my hips and legs spread wide to allow baby plenty of space. My contractions really picked up in the tub. They were coming every few minutes and I had to breathe through them and do horse lips. I could hear Emily tell Jesse and Nicole that things were moving since she could see the baby bulge in my back and the purple dilation line. I was in labor land but I was still drawn down by Emily’s calm presence and voice. She knew exactly what to say when feelings of uncertainly would creep in my mind. At some point, Tammy arrived and held my hand in the tub. With each contraction things got more intense. Emily asked if I felt pushy and before I could verbally respond, my body gave her the answer and my body pushed a little bit. We drained the tub and I miraculously got out and moved over to the bed. During that walk my water broke and the next thing I see is Emily gowned up with blue pads on the floor. It hadn’t even registered to me that I could be complete. I asked Emily what she was doing on the floor and she responded with a smile and said something like “well, we might be having a baby!” I was shocked. I was doing this. My body was doing this.
I tried pushing a few times while standing and it didn’t feel right. I asked to lay down on my side. I pushed a few times on my side and asked Emily to check me since I didn’t want to be pushing against my cervix. Clearly, I did not think I was as far as everyone else did. Emily checked me and I was a 9.5 with a small lip, but baby’s head was already moving down past it. Emily encouraged me to listen to my body and push if I felt the urge to push. I laid down on my side with the peanut ball and rested and pushed slightly if I felt the urge.
From this point on, I have no recollection of time, which is completely different than my first experience. I listened to my body and pushed at the peak of each contraction. Emily suggested I get up on all fours and hang over the top of the bed. This felt powerful. I could feel the baby move down. I remember needing lots of physical support. Jesse was in front of me and Nicole and Tammy on either side. I could hear Emily’s voice behind me encouraging me to listen to my body and move how I needed to. She was such a calm and encouraging presence throughout this phase. We kept moving positions and baby kept getting lower. After a while, Emily suggested I lay on my back with my legs pulled up high behind me. This would help baby get around my pelvis a bit better. The fear started to creep in as it started feeling similar to my first pushing experience. I pushed with each contraction on my own, listening to my body. I could see Emily’s face and she would flash a smile every so often. Everyone knew this was happening but I didn’t believe them. I remember looking at Emily and she would smile at me and say “you’re doing this!” it was beginning to register, I was doing this.
I pushed for a while longer and things got really intense. The pressure was there and I could reach down and feel baby’s head. I kept asking Jesse if the baby was coming out and he kept telling me that we were way farther than we ever were with Cora. He must have told me this 100 times and I didn’t believe him. Everyone was so encouraging and allowed me to just listen to my body.
Finally, it seemed that with each push, I didn’t get relief from the pressure after the contraction. This was because baby’s head was halfway out! I still didn’t believe it. A few more pushes and his head came out and I felt a gush. I looked at Jesse and then at Emily and they both had big smiles. It was happening. One more push and the rest of his body came out. I felt him leave my body, something I had dreamed about for years.
The next thing I know I hear Emily tell me to reach down and grab my baby. I hooked each hand under his little wet body and pulled him to my chest. The next moment is one I will never forget. I heard his sweet new baby cry. A cry I had dreamed about and wanted to hear more than anything. My baby’s first cry. This baby that I grew and wondered what it would feel like to meet for the first time. I missed all of this with my daughter when I was under general anesthesia. I felt robbed of these moments. Hearing his sweet cry, feeling the warm wet skin on my skin and knowing I did it made my heart swell. I did it. We checked to see if it was a boy or girl and to our surprise, it was a boy!
My eyes were closed as I cried that I did it, I wasn’t broken, I did it. I couldn’t see anyone but I felt each and every person’s support in the room. I felt supported as they touched my face, whispered in my ear and held my shoulders. I did it. I pushed a baby out when so many doctors told me I couldn’t. I did it.
Aiden, my boy, I hope you always feel how much I love you and Cora. Cora’s birth rocked me to my core, but it also shaped me into the person I am. I found my drive, my passion and my strength. This birth, your birth, it healed me. It healed my mama heart in more ways than I can express. This birth also gave me strength. I can do anything if I set my heart and mind to it. I can do anything if I release my fears and just let it happen. I hope to always carry these lessons into this journey of mothering my two babies. My heart is healed and it also grew to love my two babies, Cora and Aiden.