Preterm Delivery, Healthy Baby!

This was our first pregnancy. My husband and I were so excited and thankful! I have a connective tissue disorder and we were nervous about how things might go with pregnancy and delivery. We had longed to start our family, but had to wait until now due to a major surgery I had a couple of years earlier. We thank God for this healthy chapter in our lives, a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy boy.

Our amazing friend and doula, Aimee, was an invaluable part of our team and helped us to know the questions we needed to ask, as well as the possible scenarios to discuss with our doctors. She also researched my condition thoroughly, and asked us questions to understand it better. Aimee was very thorough in learning about my specific risks in childbirth. She also asked us how we were doing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. She was a great listener and we never felt like a question was too silly to ask her. She is very smart, caring, and compassionate, as are others we have met through Gentle Childbirth Services. They have a rich knowledge of childbirth to help counsel and guide clients through the journey of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.

There were two main risks we were told we had with labor and delivery due to my condition. These were rapid labor and premature birth. I started having contractions at 32 weeks. We went to the hospital and were able to get things slowed down. They gave me the steroid shots for our baby and I was sent home on bed rest. The next evening, my water broke and we headed to the hospital knowing this was it. The next time we came home, we would be parents! We had called our doctor and Aimee and she headed to the hospital to meet us. Things progressed quickly, especially since I was 2 cm dilated and 90 % effaced when I was sent home on bed rest. They progressed so quickly that we thought we might not make it into a delivery room before our baby was born.

Our team consisted of Jon and I, my mother, Aimee, and the medical staff. Aimee brought a sense of calmness to our lives during such a new, scary, and exciting time. This was even more evident on this night, the night our son would be born. As soon as Aimee walked/ran into the delivery room, I felt a calmness invade the room. My body was already pushing due to the rapid labor and I had no idea I had already progressed so far. I was wondering how much harder it was going to get, thinking I was much earlier in labor than I was, until I realized my body was pushing already. We knew we were having a natural birth unless there was an emergency, so seeing Aimee come in was so reassuring. She spoke with my mom and husband and rushed to my side. Our wonderful nurse and doula communicated perfectly and helped me so much! Since I was 32 weeks and 5 days along there was a lot of people in the room. Mostly, I remember just a few voices. The doctor, nurse, Aimee, and Jon are the voices I remember the most. I especially remember Aimee’s calm and encouraging voice, as well as her telling me that I was about to meet my baby when he was being born. That helped me focus on Eli and the task at hand.

When Eli was born, we all rejoiced and the doctor led a prayer. Since Eli was healthy for a preemie, I got to hold him a few minutes before the NICU team took him to get him checked out. Aimee stayed with my mom and I while Jon went with our son Eli.

Parenthood is amazing! It is the hardest and most wonderful job ever and we thank God that we have friends like Aimee to guide us as we started this journey!

First baby, Unexpected Induction

My birth story was nothing like I expected but everything I prayed for: compassionate nurses that are natural birth friendly, wisdom in every decision made, encouraging labor atmosphere/ no fear, energy for labor, husband and doula (Aimee), effective communication between us and staff, and baby delivered successfully vaginally.

 

My water started to slowly break Sunday afternoon and I expected to be in active labor that night. My body did seem to start labor that night with contractions 2.5 to 3.5 minutes apart but surprisingly stopped abruptly. When labor had not started Monday afternoon, I started different techniques: nipple stimulation, husband activities, walking, and swinging. When nothing worked, I started to have extreme anxiety about my baby getting an infection. After speaking multiple times with my doula, the nurse, and husband, we decided the best thing to do for me personally was to go to the hospital.  My anxiety was high, I could not rest and while I now realize my baby would have been ok, at the time, I needed to put my mind at rest and get checked.

 

On our way to the ER Monday night, my contractions immediately started and I knew then that fear had stopped my labor and just the peace of going to get checked had allowed the contractions to begin again. We arrived at the ER and test results were positive for amniotic fluid, so I was sent to labor and delivery. Atmosphere was very important for me and having this nurse (who I learned had natural birth herself!) helped me to relax and have confidence that I would be taken care of until Aimee got there. When the physician arrived, he was not happy with my progress. Being worried about infection, he wanted to start Pitocin. After giving me an hour to make progress and failing, we agreed on a slow Pitocin drip to mimic natural labor. This was the part I had not expected, but I thanked the Lord for every contraction at this point because I knew the alternative was full Pitocin. I was so grateful for the effective communication, and that the physician met us in the middle with a slow Pitocin drip.

 

The Pitocin started my labor nicely, but also caused me to have one contraction from Pitocin followed immediately by my own body’s natural contraction and then a rest. Contractions at first were really easy for me to relax through because they were similar to my extreme menstrual cramps. Once the contractions started getting past that point, counter pressure (that Aimee showed my husband) and the peanut ball were the most helpful. There was a point where the peanut ball no longer helped and I no longer wanted cervix checked in fear of discouragement from no progress. I started different positions: leaning over bed, hands and knees, squatting, birthing ball and deep “oh” sounds. Some positions worked for me but caused my baby’s heart rate to drop, so we did what worked for baby. My husband still applied counter pressure which was still helpful and continued through each contraction until I started pushing. Aimee helped me get up to go the bathroom frequently, and during one restroom break I felt the urge to push. At this point, Aimee encouraged me to get checked and I had indeed made progress (although I honestly can’t remember my measurement). Pushing is when my deep “oh” sounds turned to screaming. Screaming was getting me nowhere and Aimee suggested I turn all my screaming energy towards pushing. Once I did that, major progress started and my husband could soon see my son’s head! I loved pushing because it took away the pain from the contraction. I felt my son’s head of hair and was encouraged to keep going and push harder. The doctor eventually asked if I wanted to grab my baby. I found his arms and lifted him into my arms! All the pain was worth it, seeing my healthy baby staring at me.

 

There were many times I wanted to quit but only two times that I said it out loud. If it was not for Aimee who I looked to during these times for her facial expressions, I would not have been able to complete natural birth successfully. Seeing her remain calm helped me know that everything was ok and I could continue even though I didn’t feel like I could. 

On the night you were born

On the night you were born
For my daughter, Ruth
-Christina Terrell

Despite my gynecologist gently joking that he’d never known anyone stay pregnant forever, I was convinced I would. While it was exciting to know I was creating your life, I felt miserable overall like a prisoner held hostage in my own body. At any given moment of the day, you could find me shoveling Oreo Blizzards into my mouth or crying in the bathtub while listening to Velvet Underground. I was a walking (err, hobbling) parody of a pregnant woman. The last few weeks were especially rough as I piled on the weight I’d avoided gaining during the earlier months. (Your Dad had to heave me out of bed in the mornings. Talk about a loss of dignity.) Worse, I started to grow increasingly anxious about the things that could go wrong. What if your umbilical cord was choking you or you had a foot growing out of your chest? What if you were stillborn? What if it hurt real bad and I couldn’t handle it? What if you had a penis AND a vagina? What if I died? What if, what if, what if…I wore your Dad out with hypotheticals. He patiently repeated the same words he’d been telling me since we found out about you: Everything’s gonna be fine, Gink.

Determined to have an un-medicated, non-induced birth and give you your first shot at autonomy, I gently toyed with a few old wives tales thought to thin the cervix and get things going. I took Evening Primrose Oil capsules with every meal. They gave me hot flashes and nightmares. I ate pineapple so often that the acid roughened my tongue.  I kept going to prenatal yoga and walked the dogs ‘til I felt like your head was going to pop out between my legs. You were due Monday, February 16th, but I often referred to this date as arbitrary assuming since you were my first born you’d be a little late. I think I remember reading somewhere that only 5% of women give birth on their due date. Also, my doctor was on call that day and always a pessimist I figured there was no way things could be that convenient.

It was unseasonably warm on Valentine’s and I took Billie to the river for her birthday while your Dad was at work. She swam in the Cahaba and made friends with a large pit bull named Max. Max’s owner asked me when I was due. “Monday,” “What are you doing here! Go home! With my first born I walked two miles and a lady told me to go home and take a shower and I’d go into labor,” “Did you?” “I did.” Max got to playing too rough and I hoisted my heavy body out of the river spot via tree swing rope, ate a Big Mac and disgusted with myself climbed back in bed. I just didn’t think you were ever going to come.

The next night, I was lying in bed with your Dad and the dogs when something felt a little off. At this point, I was overly honed into my body assuming any and every weird feeling could be the beginning of labor. You can imagine my excitement when I went to the bathroom to see a clear, odorless liquid running down my leg. I called your Dad into the bathroom and asked him to examine it. He thought it was my mucus plug. I thought it was my water releasing. We consulted Google and still unsure, went to bed. Around two in the morning, I started to feel cramps radiating from my back to my stomach. I remember smiling and telling myself to get more rest. At five, I woke up to pee and saw my bloody show! I was basically dancing back to the bed, again forcing myself to rest more. By 7:30, the contractions were coming on strong. Contractions aren’t something you can explain. You can read about them and imagine them and wonder if they’ll be like your period cramps or like eating bad Mexican food, but no matter what you can’t know them until you are having them and once you are having them, they are impossible to miss. I crawled on all fours on the heated dog bed and rocked my torso on the exercise ball. When they would get  intense, I’d shove my face into the corner of the room and my mind would take off, visualizing a variety of scenarios. In a lot of them, I saw you as an older child, frolicking next to me. We were at a farm and you were giggling and petting goats and then we were in Italy, cruising around on a river in a boat shaped like a goose. I also imagined a roller coaster, cranking up and up and up and as the contraction came to an end, the carts would fly down hill. I closed my eyes and breathed through each one, excited that the time was now and determined to have a positive birth experience.

 In between contractions, I downloaded an app to time them and crawled in bed, gently touching your Dad on the leg. I wanted to let him sleep longer but this was real! This was it! We were going to meet you! Our daughter! And on your due date, no less! “I’m in labor,” I smiled. He later admitted to not fully believing me. I tried to hold off on texting our doula, Kelly, but excitement got the best of me and I went ahead and told her I was in the throes of contractions. She started to make childcare arrangements and by ten she was in the bedroom with us, complimenting my breathing and how calm I was handling everything. This gave me a much needed confidence boost. Look at me. In labor yet cool, calm and collected. Go on, brush your shoulders off.

The hours spent laboring at home feel fluid and weird, like time was stopping and simultaneously moving faster. Your Dad made me a grilled cheese sandwich and poured me a glass of wine. The dogs were confused and I felt annoyed by them but I still wanted them near me. Kelly explained how changing positions could speed things up, but warned me the change would be jarring and might be more intense for the first few contractions. They definitely were. I walked around the house and upstairs to say hey to the cats, pausing to lean over onto counters, tables and couches as a contraction waved over me. Speaking of waves, I had a lot of visions of the ocean. I also thought about your great-grandmother and envisioned myself a variety of female animals birthing. I was a cat having kittens. I was a mare delivering a filly in a cozy, old barn on a rainy day.

Around two, Kelly suggested that the intensity and timing of my contractions made her believe I was dilated enough to get in the birthing tub. Zak excitedly packed the rest of our things into the car and I hobbled outside, placing my knees in the passenger seat and holding on to the back of the chair. Every minor bump we hit spurred awful, painful contractions. I tried not to get mad at your Dad. I knew it wasn’t his fault, but I wanted very badly to cuss him because it felt like he was purposely hitting every single blemish on every single road. In hindsight, I’m happy it happened this way because I was able to keep my progress while changing environments.

Walking into the hospital, everything was so cold, white and sterile. The girls at the front desk almost looked like they were disgusted with me. I was ushered into the room with the birthing tub and soon met an awful, rude nurse who clearly was not interested in working with a natural mom. She checked my tonsils via my cervix and determined I was dilated to nearly 6cm and effaced 90%, which cleared me for getting in the tub. But first, she made sure to rudely talk to me during contractions, insisting she couldn’t take my pre-registration paperwork I had completed online nor would she accept the printed copy that I had brought with and instead demanded I answer everything verbally. I remember Kelly taking up for me and saying that I completed everything beforehand to avoid being asked these questions. I slid into the tub and tried to ignore her. I swear the contractions hurt worse when she was around. I had high expectations for the tub and while it felt good, it wasn’t as immediately relieving and relaxing as I had hoped it would be. I labored in it for probably two hours, but maybe twenty minutes, as at this point in the day, time was completely irrelevant to me. The shower was actually much better and I braced myself on all fours on the bench and let the insanely hot water wash over my back. I most definitely had a back labor and it worried Kelly that your head was in a bad position, but luckily you were cooperative.

A new nurse, this angel of a woman named Jeri, came into our room and informed us she would be taking over the night shift. I immediately loved her. She was so sweet and nurturing—definitely a breath of fresh air after the other homegirl. Kelly and your Dad had been offering me Gatorade constantly throughout the day and it worried Kelly and Jeri that I couldn’t urinate. Kelly said sometimes a cervix wouldn’t dilate with a full bladder. I kept going to the bathroom and sitting on the heated toilet seat, enjoying the few moments of privacy it afforded me. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked like a monster, but in a good way. I looked tough. I was tough. I just couldn’t pee is all. Your head was making me feel like I had to boo-boo, so I abandoned the pee efforts and went back to try new positions. Some of the contractions were incredibly intense and your Dad became skilled at alternating a heating pad on the small of my back while I was in the thick of one and then cooling my upper back off with a wet washcloth as soon as it ended.

He and Kelly massaged me with almond oil and reminded me to relax my jaw when I clenched it too tight. Dr. H sent me some popsicles and I remember greedily slurping down a lime flavored one. I also snacked on granola bars and crackers throughout the labor to try and keep my energy. Jeri asked when my water broke and we explained that I had the small trickle but never a big gush. She examined me and said you were still wrapped in the amniotic sac and asked if she could have Dr. H break my water. I was terrified of the amniotic hook (it looks like a crotchet needle!) but agreed. As soon as he broke it, I felt a HUGE wave of relief.

Around this time, with my face pushed into the back of the hospital bed, I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t do this,” but I refused to verbalize it. I felt like saying it would make it real. I also remembered reading other women’s birth stories and how this was a common feeling to have at the later stage in labor. Then I thought…oh my, are we nearly done with this? I also didn’t want to ask questions like that though. The only thing that mattered was the exact second we were living in. But gah, it was getting hard to keep this up. I pushed the thoughts away. I told Kelly I wanted to get back in the tub. Jeri said she didn’t know if I could because she believed I was dilated too far. (At the hospital where we had you, you can labor in the tub, but you can’t deliver in the tub. You can get in after you’re dilated 4cm but you can’t get in past 7cm.) She asked if she could call Dr. H in to check me. I agreed but tried not to get my hopes up too high. I thought I heard him say 9cm, but I couldn’t believe it. I asked them to repeat it. Nine! He said he was ok with me laboring down or practicing pushing. It was really almost time to meet you!

Up until this time, I had used just about every part of the room to labor. I’d been in the bed inside my body pillow, on exercise balls and peanuts, in the shower, the toilet, the tub. I’d done squats while bracing myself on the bar that pulled out of the bed. I’d leaned against your Dad, though I kind of hated this position and felt like I was going to break him. I’d been on all fours, I’d been on two feet and now they were suggesting I get on my back. “Heck naw,” I thought to myself, but the suggestion was actually really good. It wasn’t laying flat on my back like you see in movies, but instead, the bed folded into an upright reclining position and I was able to rest my back against the top part in between waves. My bottom half was positioned at an angle to make it easy for you to slide out. Here’s the part I loved most though—the way my birth team supported me during pushes. The bar at the bottom of the bed was pushed up and Kelly stood across from me and draped a twisted sheet over it for us to play tug-of-war. As the urge to push came on, she and I would tug as Zak would help lift my legs back and Jeri would place her fingers inside of me, encouraging me to try to push them out. In between urges to push, I would pull your Dad down to me and we would kiss. His kisses were like a drug, filling my body with oxytocin and allowing me to envision my vulva opening like a sheela na gig. This became a steady routine. Tug and push then be rewarded with kisses. And here’s something worth mentioning: I definitely didn’t expect pushing to feel good, but oh my goodness, it did. It hurt too, don’t get me wrong, but it hurt in an amazing way. I had envisioned it would be worse than the contractions, but it’s a totally different sensation all together. This gave me a boost, along with the positive reinforcement I was getting from your Dad, Kelly and Jeri who kept telling me how strong I was and what a good job I was doing. Around this time, Jeri told me she could see your head and that it was covered in hair! This wasn’t much of a surprise considering I was plagued with wicked heart burn nearly the entire pregnancy, but it was exciting to know you might look like all the visions I had of you: tiny, covered in vernix with dark hair. “What color is it?” “It looks dark.” I smiled to myself.

We continued our pushing routine. At one point, they told me you were trying to make your way down on your own, sans contraction. You were trying to help get here sooner! I really appreciated that! Not much later, I overheard Jeri tell Kelly she thought it was nearly time to call the doctor. I was so excited to meet you, but I still couldn’t believe this experience was close to over. I just couldn’t let myself get my hopes up that it would be over soon because I worried something could easily snag and cause it to drag on longer.

Dr. H came in the room and asked Jeri to turn off the “French fry light” overhead. I was grateful. Earlier in labor, I had asked to wear my eye mask but it was short lived. He began to vigorously massage my perineum, telling me how tough I was because even women with epidurals sometimes complain about it. I accredited it to your Dad rubbing my perineum with coconut oil at home every night for the past two weeks. Unfortunately, I still ripped and gave myself a second-degree episiotomy. I felt myself split and it was so painful, I was sure it was you who had slithered out of me. I even looked down to see you, but you weren’t there. Luckily, I tore the push right before you made your appearance because it was seriously uncomfortable. Your Dad leaned forward to kiss me again and said “Just one more!”

I didn’t know if I could believe him or not, but I wanted so desperately for it to be true. I couldn’t wait to hold you, meet you, to stare into your sweet little eyes. Sure enough, on the next push, there you were—dark haired, tiny, and covered in vernix, exactly as I’d pictured you. I immediately burst into tears. You were crying. Your Dad was crying. Kelly and Jeri and Doc were crying. Doc thanked us for reminding him why he got into his profession to begin with. We were all crying happy tears, telling you hello. Eager for our skin to touch, I held you on my chest and you immediately latched on to my breast. And that’s the story, Baby Girl, of the night you were born and the moment we first met.

Second VBA2C - with TWINS!

VBA2C with TWINS? Everyone I talked to asked me crazy questions like "why not just have a repeat section with twins?" and "are you going to try to have them natural?" Well, I had my last baby naturally as a VBA2C so why not? See, I'm a great candidate - at least that's what I was told. With 2 vaginal deliveries before my 2 c-sections, I was told I was a great candidate to VBA2C baby #5 and I did -- all natural with the help of an awesome husband, fabulous nurse and a wonderful doula, Fredia Nelms. So, when I found out I was pregnant with my 6th child, I had no doubt I would VBA2C again. Then the ultrasound technician said twins and my heart sank. Would I find a doctor who would LET me VBA2C twins? So I went out searching for that healthcare provider who would let me birth these twins the way I wanted to. After consulting with one that I was happy with but not happy with the hospital, I discussed it with my husband, Ricky, and decided I felt it was best to return to my previous practice and ask the doctors there how they felt about it. After all, they had allowed me to VBA2C once so maybe they would again.

At my first visit with Dr. Ross, he brought up the discussion about VBA2C the twins and said he saw no reason I couldn't do it. I was beyond excited! Obviously he would need to discuss it with his partners to make sure everyone was ok with it, but I had hope! At my next visit, I was informed that all partners were on board with me attempting a TOL (trial of labor) with these twins!! I knew then that God had answered my prayers and all would be ok. My pregnancy progressed well and without complications. I had what the doctors considered a "textbook" twin pregnancy. No complications, worked up until I went into labor and really didn't feel too uncomfortable until about a week before delivery.

Labor started and stopped several times in the last week of my pregnancy however, at 38 weeks I thought the real deal was here. I was already dilated to 3cm at my last checkup and when the contractions started coming, they started coming hard and fast. I labored at home for hours and finally decided to head to Brookwood on Friday evening. When we got there, I was only dilated to 4cm but it was progress and I had hopes it would continue - and quickly since I was so uncomfortable. Boy was I wrong! I labored all night Friday night with Fredia helping me to get in different positions to encourage baby A to come down more, but by Saturday morning, things had fizzled out and it was time to decide what to do. So I walked, and walked, and walked the halls of L&D at Brookwood. By Saturday afternoon, I was 5cm and almost completely effaced. Since things were continuing to progress, Dr. Adcock was willing to discuss some "induction" options. Ricky and I discussed our options and decided to try to break my water and start some pitocin. Mind you it would be a tiny dose of pitocin but maybe that would be all I needed to kickstart my body and get things moving along again.

Around 9pm on Saturday evening, Dr. Adcock broke my water and started pitocin at the lowest rate possible. At this point, I was about 5.5cm and almost fully effaced. Labor wasn't nearly as unbearable as it was the last time. Maybe it's because I was better prepared and knew what to expect, I don't know. I progressed well and stayed pretty relaxed - even joking with Fredia, Ricky and Kelly (another doula who had come to help). Both Fredia and Kelly attempted many different positions to help the process and kept the mood light. Of course, that's until I got to around 8cm -- then it started to hurt! Dr. Adcock had been insistent on placing an epidural catheter to have in place in case an emergency arised and I needed an emergency c-section. See, by having the catheter in place, it would be easy for the anesthesiologist to just "turn the pump on" and boost me with numbing meds so I could be awake for the birth of my babies. This made sense and I was fine with that but really wasn't thrilled about the "test dose" they would have to do to ensure the catheter was in the right place. But by 8cm, when the pain was getting unbearable again, I decided we could do the epidural test dose and then turn the machine off. That might help my body relax enough to get my cervix complete and bring my babies faster. Around 1:30am on Sunday morning, the anesthesiologist came in and placed my epidural catheter. After he gave me the test dose, my blood pressure bottomed out and I blacked out. Once I was conscience again, I noticed the epidural was still running and asked it be turned off. My lower half was numb so I decided to try to take a little nap to get the energy I needed to finish what I had started. Fredia got me the "peanut" ball and put it between my legs and I took about a 30 minute snooze.

I woke up to feeling pressure and realized baby A was going to make his entrance very soon. Thankfully, I couldn't feel pain because of the epidural test dose but I could move my legs so I was pretty happy about that. I told the nurse I felt baby A was coming soon and she checked. Sure enough, I was complete and baby A was +2 or +3 station --- he was coming really soon. The nurse started getting things ready to move me to the OR. She was taking her time getting stuff done though and I told her then we weren't going to make it there. He was coming now! In the end, we emergently moved to the OR with the nurse riding the bed with me holding baby A's head in so he would not be born in the hall.

Dr. Adcock came in the OR. The room was packed with plenty of nurses, the anesthesiologist, my two wonderful doulas and Ricky right by my side. With very little pushing, obviously, baby A was born at 2:55am. At my last doctor's appointment, an ultrasound had revealed baby B had flipped and was breech. This wasn't a huge concern since she was baby B but Dr. Adcock was prepared for this. However, after baby A was out, he started feeling around in my uterus and found that baby B was vertex. She had flipped herself around again! Dr. Adcock broke my water and I started pushing. Once she crowned, he let me feel her head before I continued to push. Then, once her head was out, he unwrapped the cord from around her neck and let me pull her out. It was the most awesome experience ever!!! I pulled her to my chest and it was so surreal. She was born at 3:03am and once she came out, I realized that I DID IT! I had successfully delivered VBA2C TWINS! My birth experience could not have been more perfect.

My twins are now 8 weeks old and sometimes I still can't believe I did it. People ask me everywhere I go, "did you have a c-section?" I love the look on their face when I tell them that I did not have a c-section, that I went into labor and had them vaginally AFTER 2 previous c-sections. My husband tells me I am an example for others and it's amazing what I did. I guess I don't see it as amazing but merely that I achieved what I wanted! And knowing that these two little blessings have completed my family -- I feel good knowing I finished birthing my babies the way I wanted to do it! I'm beyond thankful to Fredia and Kelly for believing in me and helping me accomplish my goal.

A vaginal birth after FOUR c-sections!

VBA4C?!?  I mean, seriously, what crazy person attempts a vaginal birth after four c-sections?  What about the risks and possible complications?  Wouldn't it be easier to just have that fifth c-section?

So, why not have another c-section?  My husband, Gregg, and I may want more children.  We both agreed that having any more than five c-sections was just too much of a risk on my health.  
Honestly, the odds were not in my favor.  Wait, wait...I'm not talking about rupture statistics.  Through ICAN (www.ican-online.org) I was quickly made aware that the risks were definitely higher in attempting another c-section.  So what wasn't in my favor?  Almost every doctor in the area.  Almost every hospital in the area.  Except one...Dr. Davis and UAB.  This doctor and this hospital were willing to provide me the means to try for a vaginal birth.  But the odds were still against me.  For this vaginal birth to be a success so much had to be just right.  I had to go into labor on my own, baby had to be head down and not posterior, baby's heart rate couldn't decrease at all during labor, and lastly my c-section scar couldn't rupture.  None of this would be possible without the grace of God - so I prayed and I trusted He would have a hand over it all!

When I started out on my VBA4C journey I was determined to do everything within my power to make it happen.  My first pregnancy ended up in a c-section because of mal-position and because after having an epidural I had no idea how to push out a baby effectively.  So, my first decision - this baby was to be born naturally.  If you know me, you know that pain is something I'm not a fan of and am also completely terrified of.  So, my second decision - hire a doula that would help me through the pain of childbirth.  I checked references and found the best doula (seriously, she is!) in all of Birmingham - Fredia Nelms.   

Armed with my doula and loads of reading and watching birth stories my pregnancy advanced.  I warned Fredia ahead of time that my babies come early.  Child #1 came at 37 weeks, child #2 at 37 weeks, child #3 at 36 weeks, and child #4 at 35 weeks.  I was certain we would be having another early baby.

Sure enough at 33 weeks the contractions began.  And they continued for 6 whole weeks.  It became a regular thing for me to be up all night with contractions 10 minutes (or less) apart for hours.  Several times I was sure "this was it" and would text Fredia.  By 38 weeks I was certain I was going to start screaming at her if she told me I was just having false contractions again.  Did she not hear me?  These things hurt!  They most certainly were not false!  Thankfully, she knew my body better than I did and advised me to rest instead of rushing off to the hospital.  Each time the contractions would fizzle out and I would mope around fat and miserable.

Friday night - July 18th.  I was just a couple days shy of 39 weeks.  (Did you read that??  39 weeks!  I'd never been pregnant that long!)  I had a horrible night of contractions.  They stayed 4-5 minutes apart throughout most of the night.  I sent my usual text to Fredia the next morning, and she once again told me to rest.  I wasn't too mad at her this time because she did add that "you will need the rest if you have this baby later tonight."  Seeing that word tonight was thrilling to me!  

I of course took my doula's advice to heart - and then promptly gathered up my family and headed for the zoo!  It was a wonderful day!  I think it was needed by us all.  That evening, after my heart was full of happiness from our day, I finally settled into bed at about 12:30am.  Within five minutes I felt 2 very distinct pops in the front of my belly.  I knew exactly what it was!  Within 5  minutes the contractions started and I was visibly leaking fluid.  I yelled at my husband, Gregg, who was fast asleep.  He helped me put towels on the bed so I could lie down and try to rest for awhile.  As soon as I laid down a contraction hit and, oh my goodness, it was horrendous!  I was immediately screaming.  

We sent Fredia a text at 12:50am, and after talking back and forth for an hour or so we collectively decided it was time to head to the hospital.  I was still screaming through contractions and had decided that there was no way I was having this baby without an epidural.  

Our friend, Denise, was called to sit with the kids so we could head off to the hospital.  She was a Godsend.  She was able to start counter-pressure on my back that immediately helped the contractions.  She showed Gregg what she was doing so he could take over.  I don't know what I would have done without the counter-pressure.  It was still horrible, but it would have been so much worse!

At 1:56am we sent a text to Fredia, "On our way."  This was immediately followed by another text, "I really think I want meds."  The contractions were no joke!

At about 2:15am we finally arrived at the hospital only to be stopped at the front desk so Gregg could get a nametag.  Seriously??  We were then told at triage to have a seat in the waiting room.  Again, seriously??  Keep in mind that I am still screaming through each contraction.  They finally got me back to triage at about 2:30am.  

They checked me and found that I was only 5cm.  Sweet Fredia had sent me this text on our drive up, "I want you to remember the number assigned to your cervix when you get there is not a reflection of how hard you are working or how far you have to go.  It's not the whole picture."  With that in mind hearing that I was only 5cm wasn't devastating.  Of course part of the reason it wasn't devastating was because I was certain I was going to be getting drugs in the very near future!

At UAB they require you to stay in triage until a room is available in labor and delivery.  And of course, a room wasn't available right away.  Oh, and guess what else, they can't give you drugs until you're in labor and delivery.  Didn't they know I was dying?  I literally was screaming for God to save me, help me, just make it stop.  This is only mildly embarrassing to me now!

At 3:04 am we were finally taken to labor and delivery.  Within minutes two angels arrived - Fredia and the anesthesiologist.  To my horror they both wanted me to be checked before I was given an epidural.  At this point the only position that I could handle was standing and leaning over.  I somehow managed to make my way into the bed to be checked. 

I was completely dilated!  Oh my gosh - I was complete!  I clearly remember Fredia locking eyes with me and telling me I could do this.  And all I could think was - crap, I have to do this!

I immediately went into a strange sort of primal mode.  The ridiculous screaming stopped and I focused on what I had to do.  For around 40 minutes I pushed and pushed.  I started on all fours at the head of the bed.  The doctor quickly got bored with my progress and left leaving just the nurse, Fredia, Gregg, and I in the room.  (So much for me being such a high risk patient!)  I'm not sure who suggested it but Fredia helped me get into a squatting position at the foot of the bed.  I pushed about 15 more minutes and started feeling the burning.  After the next push I could reach down and feel my baby's head.  I remember Fredia telling me I needed to breath through the next contractions - don't push - the doctor has to get here.  But it was impossible not to push.  This was the point where I learned that the "ring of fire" was truly no joke!  My next push his head came out and with the next our little Stephen Michael came out into the hands of the nurse at 4:06am.  I can still hear my husband saying, "Devon, you did it!"

My little man was put immediately on my chest!  I've had five children and this is the first time I've ever held one of my babies right after they were born.  What an amazing feeling!

It took me about 2 weeks to really wrap my brain around the entire experience.  I truly never thought I would experience a normal delivery of a child.  I always questioned whether my body could even do it.  And I surely never thought I would do it without an epidural.  But I did!  My body does work!  

One of the biggest things I struggled with after the delivery was the loss of my birth plan.  I had envisioned this beautiful labor experience.  I had a playlist all ready to listen to while I bounced on a birthing ball.  The fast, hard labor I had was almost traumatic in a sense.  It's taken me until now to accept that things happened just as they were supposed to - just as God planned.  If labor had lasted 5 minutes longer maybe I would've ended up getting that epidural which could have changed the entire outcome.  So many things might have been different.  But they weren't, they were perfect!

I know without any doubt that I couldn't have done it without the 2 hours of counter-pressure my amazing husband provided (I had the bruises to prove it!) or the awesome support of my doula!  I don't know if we'll have more children, but if we do I'll want both of them by my side once again!  And again, Dr. Davis and UAB were amazing.  They gave me a chance when no one else would!  

My husband tells me I need to be humble when telling my story.  That's a very hard request because I'm just so darn proud of myself!  With the help of God, I did what so many considered to be impossible.  I had a vaginal birth after FOUR c-sections!  And I did it naturally!  I rocked my VBA4C!

A natural induction

I always heard “you never remember the bad parts about labor and delivery. Everything is erased the moment your child Is born.” For me that is not true. I remember every single second of our daughter Alice’s birth. I remember every....single...moment. I remember the waiting, the pacing, every contraction, every push, everything. Moreover, I feel incredibly lucky that I do remember. Because everytime I see Alice smile I remember experiencing bringing her into this world and the joy I felt through every painful second of her labor.

At 40 weeks my doctor checked me and shook his head. I was nowhere near ready to deliver Alice, and I was perfectly content to let her stay and cozy for as long as she needed. I did not want to rush her, and thankfully neither did my doctor. I had searched for a doctor that would be on board with a natural delivery, and Dr. Huggins was the ticket. He smiled at me and told me to come back at 41 weeks. There was no mention of induction. There was no talk of a C-section. I was in good hands.

41 weeks came and went with no change. I was still certain that Alice was healthy and strong and Dr. Huggins agreed. However he told me that at 42 weeks he would feel irresponsible if we did not discuss our options. I agreed and settled in for what I knew would be another full week. Sure enough I showed up, still pregnant, at my doctor’s office at 42 weeks. An ultrasound revealed my amniotic fluid had decreased and my placenta was well past its prime. Dr. Huggins hugged me and told me, “it’s just time”. Tears immediately welled in my eyes and I envisioned another induction experience like the birth of our 5-year-old son, Homer. Dr. Huggins knew how strongly I felt about being able to have an un-medicated birth so he suggested trying a balloon catheter first. My husband, Philip, and I were excited at the prospect of still being able to go into labor at home as we’d hoped. We left the doctor’s office with a little spring in our step (as springy as you can get at 42 weeks).

The balloon catheter went in. The balloon catheter came out. There was no progress. I was certain I would be sent immediately for a high dose of pitocin, encouraged to have an epidural...the works. Instead, Dr. Huggins suggested starting me at a very low level of pitocin. He wanted me to be able to go without an epidural if possible, and stick to as much of my birth plan as he could while ensuring the safety of Alice. We went through an entire day of pitocin with absolutely zero progress. I was exhausted. I had laid in bed, watching the clock move slowly, nervous that at the end of the day they would crank it up and throw me into the landslide of labor interventions. Wrong again. Dr. Huggins made a crucial decision to remove me from pitocin, allow me to have the night off, get some food, get some sleep, and start again the next day with the pitocin. I was shocked. Another day? Two days of this? I was surprised and overjoyed! I had never heard of going on and then off of pitocin. And where was this option during my first birth? I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Huggins was not about to rush this birth.

Alice was still thriving, and Huggins knew that if I continued pitocin through the night I would be too tired to endure the marathon that was ahead. So instead of staying the course of many a modern doctor, Dr. Huggins stop the IV, unhooked me, encouraged me to take a walk and to eat a fabulous dinner with my husband. Whole Foods pizza never tasted so good.

The next morning, bright and early at 6am, we started our second day of pictocin. My body had been warmed up, and a couple hours later my uterus finally decided to wake up and join the party. The contractions started very slowly. Dr. Huggins still wanted to mimic natural labor as closely as possible, so I was started on the pitcocin very slowly. As they increased the drip in small increments the contractions grew stronger. I wanted to get out of bed, to move my hips and let the contractions flow through me as I walked around. Unfortunately, I still had my trusty IV with me, so the walking IV pole became my friend, traveling up and down the hallways with me Philip. My husband and I entertained ourselves as much as one possibly can while wandering the same hallway back and forth for an hour. It was a good time for us. We knew what was ahead and our nervousness and excitement were bundled up in a tightly wound ball of anticipation. I tried to unwind that ball in my head with every step I took. I breathed. I listened to Alice. I felt my physical self in a way I had never experienced before. As I walked the contractions grew stronger. At one point I had to stop and brace myself with the hand rail with each rush. The waves passed over me and Philip and I started laughing again. I knew as long as I could talk and laugh we had a long way to go. Then the talking stopped. Philip looked at me (slightly scared) and asked if he needed to call Aimee. I shook my head, no. Two minutes later a contraction almost took me to my knees. I told Philip to call Aimee....NOW.

We slowly made our way back to the room and Aimee arrived. She was the most welcome sight I had seen all day. Her energy flooded the room and suddenly I knew that I could do this. I could push through these walls and get to the other side. Her calm gaze and reassuring touch told me that I was doing what millions of women had been doing for millions of years. This was what my body was engineered to do. I felt the confidence I needed to labor and deliver Alice.

The contractions quickly grew intense and very close together. I moved from the ball to the shower to the bed. I finally settled on the ball as my favorite place to ride the contractions. Aimee was with me the entire time. She kept telling me how great I was doing, and kept reminding me that I would meet my baby soon. This got me through the darkest moment in my labor. Each contraction was its own monster. And each time I felt myself sliding into a rabbit hole of despair Aimee and my husband were right there to pick me up again. At one point I felt this was my destiny, to be endlessly in the pain of labor. I knew I had to continue but I wasn’t sure I had it in me. And then suddenly I was there. Every cell in my being told me to start pushing. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Aimee gave me the green light and told me that if my body was telling me to push then I could push. I was on my knees with my upper body leaning on the ball and with the next contraction I felt my muscles work in a way they had never worked before. It was the most excruciating feeling and yet it felt so good. I felt powerful. Eventually Aimee told me that I could move to the bed and face the wall to push. I took her advice and somehow made it to the bed. I continued to push and Aimee’s voice in my ear kept encouraging me every minute along the way. And then suddenly things moved quickly. With a single push I could feel Alice drop and begin to crown. I’m pretty sure this is when I started yelling. Aimee told me to stop for a moment but I couldn’t. I had to keep going. My body was exhausted and I knew that if I didn’t push Alice out in the next minute I couldn’t go on. I was facing away from the rest of the room so I didn’t know what was happening behind me. With the nurse’s and Aimee’s approval I kept pushing and suddenly I felt Alice slide out. It was the most incredible feeling I have ever experienced. In the next few seconds a crowd of people flooded into the room and things got a little interesting.

What I could not see was that Alice was born without my membranes rupturing. My water never broke. Immediately after she was born there was a scary silence and lots of rushing about. Alice was suctioned and soon after she gave a loud cry. My heart finally started beating again.

They laid Alice on my chest and I tucked her inside my nightgown. It is a feeling I will carry with me the rest of my life. The way she looked in the seconds after she was born is forever in my mind. I felt high in the best way possible. I had experienced every single second of her journey into this world. I felt as though I couldn’t even concentrate on what people were saying to me. The world was spinning around us and I was completely lost in this little person in my arms. Aimee’s guidance during Alice’s birth was an invaluable gift. Her presence gave us the calm encouragement we needed to get through the most difficult moments. Looking back on the overall experience I know that the education and support she provided allowed us to have the birth we had hoped for. She was a constant source of emotional strength and humor when we needed it. I’m not sure I could have gotten through my labor as well as I did without her by my side.

First baby, so much better than I expected!

Before we get to the details of our story, these were my expectations going in -- I would be overdue...at least 8 days. I would experience false labor AT LEAST once. I would have a long labor...at least 20 hours. I would go into labor at night and be incredibly tired. I would know when I was having contractions. Things might not go the way I wanted. I might not be able to do this (anyone else go from thinking “newborns are so tiny!” to “Their heads are so HUGE!” as they neared the due date?). When we met with our doula, Bobbie, at 38 weeks, she told us that she wanted us to be able to look back on our experience and have it be everything we had hoped. When she said that I instantly thought, “well, I don’t want to expect THAT much.” I know things don’t always go as planned with labor, and I wanted to be realistic. But I can honestly say we had an incredible experience. This is our story…

On Tuesday, February 4, I had my 39 week appointment but opted not to get checked because I didn’t want to be disappointed or have false hope. My doctor was fine with waiting until 40 weeks to check me again. At 10:15 that night, I emailed our doula, Bobbie, an update about our appointment and to tell her I’d had an unusual discharge earlier that day that was “all clear and kind of snotty consistency” but with some light pink at the end (I’m pretty sure it WAS my mucus plug). I also told her my back had been achy pretty consistently that evening, but in a more constant way (not getting worse or going away). As I tried to sleep, I remember looking at the clock around 11pm and thinking that I really didn't feel good.

We had asked my friend, Rachel, to attend our birth to help keep our families and friends updated, take pictures, and provide extra support for me and my husband as needed. At 6:20am on February 5, I texted Rachel to let her know I was having bad back cramps since the night before, but that it was probably nothing. Rachel is a nurse, so I asked for her work schedule because I wanted to know how much of a heads up she might need when we thought we were in labor...in a couple days. She responded that she was working 7am-3pm that day and that she’d keep her phone with her.

At 7:30am, I texted Bobbie to let her know I was still having “bad period cramps” but that I couldn’t distinguish a start/peak/stop or a pattern. The more intense cramping only lasted about 30 seconds, and I was still achy/crampy in between. At that point, I was really not feeling well and decided to take a nap and then call the chiropractor to see if I could go that morning. Laying down and being in the dark made me feel worse, but I was so tired it was worth it. My husband was going to get out of class at 10:40am, so I was hoping he could drive me. Unfortunately, when I woke up from my nap and called the chiropractor at 9:40am, their last appointment was at 10:30am. So I decided to try to make it myself for a 10am appointment….I just put on sweats, brushed my teeth, and left. When our chiropractor, Dr. John, asked me how I was doing (I wasn’t looking too good at that point!), I couldn’t help crying. I was just tired, didn’t feel well, and was dreading the thought of feeling like that for the next two weeks. In reality, I was just emotional, because I was definitely in early labor!

When I got home, I really didn’t feel like being by myself, so I called Kyle and asked him to come home right after his class before he had to work in the office from 12-3pm (the office is in the dorm right across the hall from our apartment). I just wanted the presence of another person. He came home and got some food for me to try to eat, and I drank a glass of red raspberry leaf “iced” tea which I’d been drinking faithfully several times a day for weeks. By 11:15am I texted Rachel and Bobbie that there was nothing new.

My husband left for work at noon, and I texted my friend, Kristie, to see if she was able to hang out. It didn’t work out, but she encouraged me to time my contractions. At 12:48pm, I texted Kristie back: “So the first two I timed sitting were about 1 min long and 9 min apart. But then I got up and it’s 20-40 seconds 2-6 min apart. So confusing cuz it seems so much more situational. Like always right after I go to the bathroom. And I can feel it really tight in my back but I don’t feel like my stomach is really hard. It’s not quite making sense to me.

By 2pm, I decided I needed to rest, so I found a movie on Netflix and laid down in bed to watch. At that point, things were getting more intense, and I had to pause the movie three times and only made it through the first 5 minutes of the movie before shutting it off. When a contraction hit, I paused the movie, clenched my pillow, and rocked back and forth on the bed groaning. That was not how I was supposed to (or wanting to) handle contractions, but I couldn’t do it by myself. I called Kyle and asked if he could come home. At 2:44pm I texted Rachel that I thought I was having consistent contractions and that we might want her to come when she got off work at 3..

I kept going back and forth about whether I thought my cramping was contractions. I had talked to Bobbie at 2:50pm, and I think she could tell that I was in active labor because shortly after our conversation she asked for a contraction update. At 3:15pm, I responded: “We haven’t been able to track 100% but mostly 45-50 seconds and 2-5 minutes apart. It seems to be getting closer. They’re not each the same intensity but they all hurt. I’ve been handling it better since Kyle got here. And I’m still in denial (at least in between).”

At 3:14pm, Rachel called about what we needed her to get for us before she came. I couldn’t make it through a conversation with her at that point, and I kept apologizing for always needing to pause while giving her a list of snacks I wanted from the grocery store. I was also getting texts from people, but I couldn’t respond back. (These should have been clues to me that THIS WAS IT...but again, my expectations told me it was all just going to end, and we’d have weeks left).

That afternoon, Bobbie was actually at her own OB appointment to find out the gender of their little one. Since I was in denial that I was in labor, and I didn’t want her to miss her appointment, we told her we were fine. Between 3 and 4pm things picked up and at 3:51pm I texted Bobbie that contractions were about 30 seconds long and 2 minutes apart, but I didn’t think they were intense enough to be super close to having the baby. Shortly after that when her appointment ended, my husband asked her to come. By the time we called, I just kept hoping she would get here soon.

Labor started getting really intense very quickly. Kyle could only leave me for a moment before I would call out “I need help,” and he’d run back and press on my back. My whole labor was back labor, and I spent all of labor in our bedroom (since we live in a dorm, we had planned to go to a nearby hotel to labor, but that never happened). The most comfortable position for me was to lean over a tall stack of pillows at the edge of our bed with Kyle pressing on my back. Unfortunately, my legs got tired, so I had to mix it up by sitting on a chair or exercise ball occasionally. I had to go the the bathroom frequently during labor, and I always dreaded it because I knew a strong contraction would hit right after. And EVERY time my husband would have to meet me at the sink for support before I made it back to the bed.

Rachel arrived about 4:45pm and Bobbie arrived around 5:15pm. I was so happy when they got there. We had not finished packing for the hospital yet (I had thrown a few things together “just in case” earlier that day), so they were trying to get our things together in between contractions. Thankfully I had written a detailed list =) Bobbie asked if she could check my purple line. I just remember her saying something like, “Ok, good.” I thought her reaction meant I wasn’t very far into labor, but she had motioned to my husband and Rachel that she thought I was 5cm. At some point I asked Bobbie if this was going to just go away (still thinking it could be false labor), and she responded with “you are DEFINITELY in labor.”

We started talking about going to the hospital, but I just wasn’t sure what the right decision was (you know...since I was STILL in denial about how far into labor I was). We made the decision and everyone starting hurrying to get everything ready to go. That was especially hard for my husband because I kept calling him back to press on my back. Bobbie timed contractions between 6:02pm and 6:49pm -- and I had SIXTEEN contractions between that time that were a minute to almost two minutes long and just about two and a half minutes apart. My breaks were only a minute! At some point in there I threw up. After the fact, Bobbie told me that by the time we left, she was very glad we had decided to go to the hospital because she knew we were getting so close to having the baby.

I don’t remember having contractions in the car, but I do remember repeatedly telling my husband, “It’s ok. We’re fine. Just be safe.” during the drive. Although most of labor went smoothly and like we had hoped, getting to the hospital did not. The trip included going up an on ramp (the wrong way), not finding a parking spot, going to the wrong floor, and having many contractions on the way to our room. Once we FINALLY made it where we were supposed to be, our awesome nurse decided we could go straight to a room instead of heading to triage to see if I was really in labor -- that much was clear.

Once we made it to our room (about 7pm), they checked me and said I was 6-7 cm. I wanted to labor in the tub, but that room was taken and they couldn’t get the blow up tub (apparently a necessary part was missing). They strapped on the monitor to check baby’s heart rate and said I’d have to be on for 30 minutes, but it ended up being much longer than that. Although I didn’t know it, they apparently kept losing his heart beat, and they needed a consistent strip before letting me go. Thankfully, they let me kneel and lean against the propped up head of the bed which was much better than lying down. At some point right after I got into that position my water broke. And shortly after that I threw up again. They had ice chips for me which I really enjoyed being able to chew between contractions. Getting the hep lock set was difficult because my contractions were so frequent and intense, but they eventually got it on the second attempt.

Dr. Radbill was on call that night and came by and prayed for us. As I was experiencing intense contractions, I overheard him cheerfully say “I’ll be back in a few hours” and I thought “You’ve got to be kidding me….it couldn’t be that much longer still.”

When they finally let me get off the monitor, I went to use the restroom. Since I knew I’d be having contractions, I sat on the toilet backwards so my husband and Bobbie would have access to my back to apply pressure. Labor got even more intense at that point. Bobbie kept trying to have me moan/groan low, but it was so hard. Throughout labor, I kept thinking “I know I should relax through this, but I just can’t.” When I was able to get control and deeply moan, it helped. I always thought I’d be very internal and quiet during labor -- that was definitely NOT the case. Keeping my eyes closed pretty much the entirety of labor was the only thing “quiet and internal” about my laboring. I needed to be very verbal to make it through each contraction, so that’s what happened. I don’t think I ever quite made it to a scream, but there was some loud grunting and groaning happening (for those who know me, that is not characteristic of my personality...but once labor takes over, personality doesn’t have much say).

While I was on the toilet, I had my “I can’t do this” moment. Although I didn’t express that verbally or even fully register it mentally, Bobbie later told me I started shaking my head (a sign that I was nearing giving up). She knew I needed to change it up. We decided to get an exercise ball and get in the shower. Once I got in the shower, I sat on the world’s smallest exercise ball. No seriously...it was so small and half deflated. So that wasn’t going to work -- it was extremely uncomfortable for me to sit on. I wedged the ball in the corner of the shower so I could lean against it, and Bobbie ran hot water over my back. That water felt SO good and finally got to all areas of my back that were hurting. Labor quickly intensified in the shower, and my body started bearing down with contractions. Bobbie knew I was complete, but waited until I felt pressure to have me go back to the bed. Everything was so intense at that moment, and with the last contraction I had in the shower, my body started curling in on itself with my heels raised off the floor -- my body was pushing!

I don’t even remember walking from the bathroom back to the bed (around 8:30/8:45pm), but I somehow ended up back on the bed leaning against the back of it. They checked me and said I was complete and ready to push. At that point I was just relieved we were getting to the end, and I think my mind started to clear a little bit. Excitement started to take over the room. Dr, Radbill came by, confirmed I was complete, said first time moms usually push 1-3 hours, and left (I don’t remember that part). Shortly after, I overheard the nurse calling the doctor again to tell him we were complete, pushing, and crowning and pretty much that he should run. He hadn’t even made it back to his office. The pushing stage of labor was such a relief. It’s almost like I didn’t feel the pain anymore. My husband and Bobbie just rubbed my back gently, and my body took over. Though I didn’t fully register the words, I have vague memories of Bobbie repeatedly telling me, “Good job. You’re doing this. Keep going. You’re doing this.” Her encouraging words were so helpful during our whole labor.

I honestly never even really tried to push. My body just instinctively (and intensely) did it on its own with each contraction. Once the doctor got there and set up, they told me they could see the head. My husband responded with “He’s so cute!” And I laughed because that was just ridiculous (turns out he hadn’t even seen anything). They told me I could reach down and feel his head which was awesome and gave me the extra boost I needed. Although contractions didn’t feel as intense, I was feeling pressure and stretching that was painful, but not as distinct as the “ring of fire” I’ve heard about. Dr. Radbill did an excellent job of coaching me through pushing and slowed me down at the end to minimize tearing. His head was born and then the rest of him slid out with the next contraction. Our little boy was born at 9:14pm on February 5 (5 days early!).

They handed him to me for immediate skin to skin. Our little guy was here! He weighed 8lb11oz, was 22 inches long and his head was 14.5 inches. And the first thing he did was poop all over me and himself. I needed stitches in three spots, but I didn’t tear too badly. We attempted breastfeeding, and he had a hard time latching at first. That was a surprise to me because I’ve heard stories of babies easily and quickly figuring it out especially if they were immediately given to the mother for skin to skin. Thankfully we have not had many problems since.

The scariest part of our whole experience was later that evening when I almost passed out in the bathroom. I was barely responsive for a while leaning against the rail by the toilet as they kept asking me “are you with me?” I had bled a lot right before that, and the bathroom (including the heated toilet seat) was hot. The nurse called in another nurse, and they got a wheelchair to take me back to bed. I felt better once I got back to the cooler air of the room and had a drink. They started setting up pitocin, but my husband stood up for me and double checked whether it was necessary. They decided they could let me wait a while and check my bleeding one more time before giving it to me. Thankfully, I didn’t end up needing it, and I’m so thankful!

Our Bradley class was very helpful in helping us feel prepared for labor, and I think it especially helped my husband feel prepared to support me during labor. He was THE BEST support I could have asked for. Bobbie was an incredible doula, and I’m so thankful for her support, guidance, and encouragement throughout our labor. And Rachel kept our families and friends updated, took pictures, talked to nurses, moved our car, got us dinner, and was in general just wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without any of them.
We are so thankful for our birth experience and understand we were very blessed with a relatively quick, complication-free first labor. Even the timing of our son's birth was perfect so that my husband did not miss much school and both sets of our parents were able to visit from up north shortly after our son's birth. We are so incredibly blessed to be his parents! He is such a sweet baby.

My second baby, another fast birth!

Elias Hawk was born on September 9, 2013 at 10:20pm. He was 8 pounds, 5 oz. and 20 inches long. Here is the story of his birth day:

I was surprised how much my mood changed after I crossed the line past 41 weeks pregnant. Friday, I still felt bright and confident that things would continue to go well until Hawk decided to join us earthside, but as Saturday (officially one week post-dates) rolled by and there were still no signs of impending labor, I began to lose confidence quickly. Waking up Sunday morning at 41 weeks plus one day gestation, I began to question my ability to go into labor on my own. I was so discouraged.

To his credit, my sweet doctor never uttered the word "induction" to me. So many are quick to schedule medical procedures once a mama approaches post-dates pregnancy, but my doc remained encouraging and supportive of my low-intervention birth plan. Still, my next appointment was scheduled on Tuesday afternoon, and I knew we wouldn't be able to avoid the topic this time.

Sunday evening, the boys and I curled up on the couch to watch a movie together. Every few minutes, I'd slide my bottom off the edge of the couch and allow myself to dangle in a squat, supported by my arms. I wiggled my hips, trying to help Hawk engage his head into my pelvis. I could tell he was still not in the right position to be born. I felt his head grinding on my pelvic bone once again, and suddenly I knew. He was trying to come down, but couldn't get his head past my pelvis. Remembering the day big brother Seth was born, I recalled vividly how my oldest son had been lodged behind my pelvic bone and I spent nearly four excruciating hours trying to push him around it. I remembered how bruised the top of Seth's head was when he finally emerged, and how I felt as if I'd been hit by a train for weeks after. I never told anyone how traumatizing his birth had been until early into my second pregnancy, because I had so much pride wrapped up in having "accomplished" the goal of having a natural birth the first time.

I decided then that, if I woke up pregnant one more day, I'd immediately call a chiropractor. I'd never been to a chiropractor before, and I have a fear of new experiences. I resolved that I was more afraid of having another traumatic birth, and swallowed my pride. Monday morning, I called the chiro that Aimee, my doula,  had recommended and scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. I knew it was possible the adjustment would put me in labor, and I was nervous. Eric stayed home from work Monday, and he took me to the chiropractor appointment. Afterward, we took Seth out for popsicles and an afternoon at the park. By the time dinner rolled around, I felt virtually the same, although as if a ton of weight had been removed from my lower back and hips. I still wasn't having contractions. Eric said he planned to go back to work Tuesday morning, and I felt deflated.

During the seven o'clock hour, I texted back and forth for a while with Aimee.  I confessed how scared I was of the prospect of going into labor alone the next day while Eric was at work, and she encouraged me to trust God's perfect timing. At eight o'clock, I sent an encouraging text to a friend from church who was scheduled for a 7 AM cesarean the next morning, feeling happy for her but anxious for myself. I headed to bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I felt tears well up in my eyes. But then, I felt God say to my heart: "I will never leave you or forsake you." 
"Thank You, Lord," I responded.

I dozed off, but after a while, a strong pain in my pelvis woke me up. It eased, and I rolled back into my pillow to go back to sleep. A few minutes later, I felt another pain. "Eric?" I called tentatively into the next room, afraid to say anything about the pain and then have it go away.

Eric came to the bedroom and I told him I'd had pains. "What time is it?" I asked him.

"9:05," he said. "Should we call someone?"

"I don't know." I hesitated. What if I called someone to come get Seth and the pain disappeared? That would be so embarrassing and frustrating. "No, not yet. Wait. Yes. Yes, let's go ahead and call someone."

Right after calling Eric's mom to come pick up Seth, I got another pain. It had been five minutes since the last. I knew I'd made the right decision immediately, and began to gather my things. Eric started to get Seth ready to go, and Seth was crying that he was scared to go without us. I felt so bad, but I couldn't dwell on it and I headed for the car with my purse and a water bottle. Eric brought a blanket from the bed out and laid it across our backseat, and he took Seth's car seat out to move into his mom's car. Seth came outside, and I heard him say, "I'm not really scared anymore. Just a little scared, but I'm ok." I was so proud of him. Right then, Eric's mom pulled into the driveway: it had been about fifteen minutes and I'd had at least two more contractions.

Through this, I'm texting back and forth with my sister and my doula. I fired off texts to everyone who'd asked to be notified when I was in labor so they could pray for me. I am amazed now that I had the presence of mind to follow through, because I had lost reasoning ability altogether almost as soon as labor began the day Seth was born. His birth had been relentless, and I felt so out of control. This time, I was totally lucid.

I crawled into the backseat on my hands and knees, and Eric started the car. The song "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman was on the radio, and I began to sing along with it right as another contraction began. As we pulled out onto the main highway, the song ended and a voice on the radio read a passage from Psalms:

From the ends of the earth I call to You,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge... (Psalm 61:2-3)

I leaned into the armrest on the car door and made that my prayer. With every contraction, I prayed and asked God to take me outside the pain: I imagined myself flying over it like an eagle. In between contractions, I continued to communicate with people by text: a friend from church, my sister, my doula (who was waiting for her husband to return home to be with their kids before she could leave to meet us). I kept an eye on the clock at the top of my phone display, and I noticed the pains we coming closer: now four minutes apart. I looked up for a landmark reference and eyed the back of a retail store moving quickly past on the side of the interstate. I asked Eric where we were, and he told me: we were about halfway there.

Closer: three minutes apart. I looked up for another reference, and texted my doula again: 3 min apart ... passing Hwy 119.

I'm not far behind you, she responded.

Right as we pulled around the curve of our exit ramp, I braced myself against the toughest contraction yet. Immediately, I thought: I'm in the transition stage. Transition is the point where most women lose any composure they have remaining. It can feel like you're losing your mind. I was amazed that I was able to process the thought and identify my body's progress. Almost there.

I had about three contractions like that before I felt the car ascending the ramp into the parking deck at the hospital, and then another contraction with the definite urge to push came. "I can't walk," I told Eric.

He hurriedly chose a handicapped space and left to go alert someone of our arrival. I climbed out of the car: as soon as I stood up, my body began bearing down and I peed all over myself. I felt Hawk's head move into the birth canal: a sensation I'd never been able to identify during Seth's birth, which had felt more like my whole lower half was being ripped apart with no distinguishable progress.

I had two pushing contractions standing there beside the car, and became convinced I was going to have a parking lot baby. Then, Eric returned with a nurse and a wheelchair. I panicked. I couldn't imagine sitting in a wheelchair in this state. At that moment, Aimee arrived. For the life of me, I don't know what she said to me but I calmed down enough to get in the chair and off we went.

A beautiful woman in scrubs was walking through the parking deck at the same time and joined us in the elevator. I only caught bits of what was said between her and the nurse, but I registered the phrase arrived just in time and thought they were just talking about me. I didn't realize then that the woman was the on-call OB, who'd arrived the same time we did!

When we arrived on the L&D floor, the nurse said, "We're going to room 12." I looked over my shoulder at the room numbers passing by: 15... 14... 13... Finally.

We got in the room, and the nurse asked me to undress and put on a gown. Somehow, I was able to comply in enough time to climb on the bed on hands and knees for the next contraction. The nurses were swarming, someone asked me to lay down. I shook my head no, and my doula asked them if I could stay like that since I was more comfortable that way. Then I looked up and saw the beautiful woman from the elevator in the room, and someone said, "Sarah, this is Dr. H------," and she said, "We already met in the elevator."

Eric's behind me, saying, "You're doing so good. He's almost here! We're almost done."

My doula was in front of me, whispering "You're safe. So close."

Someone says, "Sarah, lets turn over, and with the next contraction you can get him out."

I mustered the will to move and turned over, and that's when I felt the so-called "ring of fire": another sensation I'd skipped altogether the first time around. It was scary, but I knew then they were right and I was about to meet my baby!

With the next contraction, I pushed twice, and the ring of fire worsened but his head still wasn't out. I took a deep breath and committed to push one more time even though I didn't think I could: and there was his head. One more contraction, and his whole body emerged into the nice doctor's hands, and she placed him right on my chest. I was ecstatic!

He was perfect, clean, calm and blazing hot! I held his warmth next to me and couldn't stop smiling (even though I was still in pain!).

After a few minutes, the doctor looked at the cord and decided it was done pulsing and put a clamp on it. She turned to Eric and asked him if he wanted to cut the cord: of course he did! Someone asked me then if it was ok for them to take him or if I wanted to hold him a while longer. I agreed to let them take him to measure his vitals while I delivered the placenta.

I needed a few stitches: the doctor told me Hawk had his hand up next to his face when he emerged. She was very gentle and I barely felt a thing while she stitched me up.

My doula stuck around for quite a while, until I was relatively comfortable and Hawk was returned to me. She went to our car and retrieved my camera bag for us: I fixed the settings on the camera and handed it to her so she could snap some pictures of us with our youngest son. I was so grateful for her presence.

Start to finish, my labor only lasted one hour and twenty minutes. I am in awe: totally unable to believe I was able to accomplish such a monumental feat in such a short time.

The moment I met our youngest son, I knew our family was complete.