While this includes the birth stories of the four miracles God blessed Jarad and I with, this is more about my personal journey for a natural birth.
My husband and I found out we were expecting our first child just a few months after marriage; so much for our plan to wait 5 years! I was completely uneducated about childbirth but knew I wanted an all natural birth because my mother and grandmother had natural births. I have a high pain tolerance and it is just something I had always wanted to do. I found the best OB in town. At my first appointment I met with the nurse. She started going over what I should expect during pregnancy and asked me some questions that she filed in my chart. One of the questions was if I planned on having an epidural. As she was asking me she was shaking her head yes and answering the question for me. I said to her that I wasn’t planning on having an epidural and that I wanted an all-natural birth. She tried convincing me I needed an epidural and put me down as a maybe.
As the pregnancy progressed, it was clear that I would be having a larger than average baby. It was a very hands-on pregnancy. I had a total of 5 sonograms and was checked several times from 30 weeks on. I kept being told that my baby was huge and was expected to be 11 pounds. The OB had told me I needed an epidural in case my baby was too big to fit through the birth canal and I needed an emergency c-section. She told me I just had to get the needle inserted but never had to use the medicine. I agreed. At about 32 weeks, I was already dilated to a 3 and 50% effaced. The OB told me she was going to cancel my appointment at the hospital. I had no idea at the time what she was talking about but I later learned that each patient is scheduled to check into the hospital the day before their due date and is administered a cervix softener and then induced on their due date if they don’t go into labor on their own. A few weeks went by and at every appointment I was told my baby was huge and I really needed to schedule a c-section. I was told his head would get stuck or he could have shoulder dystocia if I tried having him vaginally. I gave in and scheduled the c-section. I hated penciling in a baby on our calendar. I still hoped to go into labor on my own and just show up at the hospital and have him vaginally. But at 36 weeks, on a Friday night, I was in triage having contractions one minute apart. I was eventually sent home, as I was not making progress and the contractions were dying down.
The following Monday at my doctors appointment, I was told the baby had not dropped and was starting to stress. I was sent to get an ultrasound where they told me he was pushing 11 pounds and his head was 16 inches in diameter and he couldn’t drop because his head was too big to fit in my pelvis. The OB told me I would most likely kill my baby if I tried to have him. I was sent to the hospital immediately for what I was told was an emergency c-section. Once at the hospital, I waited an hour or so before going back to the OR. My son, Hunter, was born at 36 weeks and 4 days, weighing in at 8 pounds, 4 ounces. He was 21 ¾” long and his head was 14”. I remember saying, “That’s it? I could have had him.” The OB replied that 8 pounds was big and my pelvis was small on the inside and there is no way he would have fit. Hunter was rushed to the nursery because he needed oxygen. It was 14 hours before I saw him or held him. He couldn’t keep his temperature up, he needed constant oxygen, and he had fluid on his lungs. He was given sugar water and formula in a tube and bottle in the nursery and once I finally was able to nurse him, I was engorged and he wouldn’t latch. I attended several breastfeeding groups and saw specialist at the hospital and we never could establish a good nursing relationship. After one month of stress and crying and supplementing formula, we finally gave up on nursing.
Jarad and I found out we were expecting our second child. We had moved to Austin so I saw a new doctor. I started out going to a doctor in San Marcos. She told me she didn’t understand why I had a c-section in the first place and she thought I was an excellent candidate for a VBAC. I didn’t know much about VBACs but started doing my research. My doctor informed me that the hospital wouldn’t allow VBACs because it was under construction and they didn’t have a NICU in case there was an emergency. She was unable to find a facility that would allow her to perform a VBAC so I switched doctors at 30 weeks. I made a 45 minute commute to a hospital that had a state of the art women’s center. The doctor I saw there agreed I was an excellent candidate for a VBAC and that is what we had planned. At 38 weeks, he told me my c-section was scheduled for the following week. I was shocked. I told him I was planning a VBAC. He told me that he didn’t realize how big my baby was going to be and that the hospital did not allow VBACs on babies projected to be over 6 ½ to 7 pounds. I had never been told that before and my first was over 8 pounds so I would have thought this would have been discussed. He then told me that a VBAC is more risk to the baby and a c-section is more risk to the mother and he doesn’t know any mother in her right mind who would put that risk on her baby instead of herself. Then he tapped me on the knee with my chart and walked out the door with a smile. My daughter, Hayden, was born [via c/section] at 39 weeks, weighing in at 9 pounds 1 oz. Nursing was rough again and we made it 3 months this time, again supplementing from very early on.
The same week we found out I was pregnant with our third, I got a letter in the mail that my current OB was relocating and I would need to find a new provider. I started looking for a VBAC friendly provider. I found an awesome OB who was pretty much anti c-section and was VBAC friendly but the hospital would not allow a VBA2C. The OB thought my first two c-sections were completely unnecessary but said we couldn’t change the past and we can’t find a facility that would allow a VBA2C, so we will just have to make the best out of this c-section. The pregnancy was great until 37 weeks. I developed high blood pressure. At 38 weeks, I still had it. I got tested for preeclampsia but it was negative. I had an appointment at 38 weeks and 5 days. I was sent to the lab for more testing but before that was complete, I got a phone call from my OB. She had consulted with a high-risk specialist who diagnosed me with gestational hypertension and said I needed to have my baby as soon as possible. I was scheduled to go in for a c-section that evening.
When I got to the hospital, my blood pressure was normal. I was taken back to the OR and given the spinal. Immediately my blood pressure skyrocketed and the baby’s heart rate dropped dangerously low. All I remember at this point was the OB yelling at the nurses to get wedges under me, and all kinds of other scary stuff. I was in a daze and remember hearing a lot of beeping noises. I remember thinking it was like one of those medical shows where the patient is looking around, dazed and confused, wondering if they are dying, and the doctor is yelling and machines are beeping and everyone is on high alert. I really wanted my husband but in the midst of all that was going on, they forgot to bring him in. He eventually was brought in and was by my side. We did not find out the gender ahead of time with this baby so my husband got to announce to me that we had a healthy baby girl. She weighed in at 8 pounds 1 oz. She was our smallest baby. She was whisked away to the nursery while I spent over 2 hours in the OR getting keloid scarring cut out and steroid shots injected. But for the first time ever, I got to see my baby while I was in recovery so I got to nurse her sooner than all my other babies. We were off to a pretty good start as far as nursing goes. Harper had some medical issues and we had to start supplementing around 3 weeks but we were able to nurse for about 8 months.
When I found out I was pregnant with our fourth, I called my OB only to find out that she wasn’t delivering babies anymore. I got a referral from several friends to an excellent OB in my area. I made an appointment. One night at my first MOPS meeting at our church, I met a girl named Annabell. We were sitting at a table with seven moms. Annabell was pregnant and was planning a VBAC at a birthing center. She was also a nurse. She made a comment that out of all 7 of us moms, only one had had a vaginal birth. The rest had had all c-sections. I asked her if she had had 3 c-sections, would she go for a VBA3C or was that just too risky? She said she would. She suggested I watch “More Business of Being Born” so that night, I went home and watched it on Netflix. I loved how honest the film was. I heard both sides of the VBAC argument. They talked about why hospitals didn’t allow VBACs, the insurance companies’ role, how VBACs got a bad reputation, the risks involved with VBACs and repeat c-sections, and so much more. It wasn’t filled with scare tactics, nor was it sugar coated. After watching the film, I started googling VBA3C.
I came across a blog from a midwife in Austin who had performed VBAMCs. I read the birth stories on her website and bawled the entire time. I knew I had to contact her and just inquire about a VBA3C. I met with Christy from Motherbloom Midwifery. I can’t even describe our meeting. It was just awesome. She was kind, compassionate, understanding and so much more. She thought I was a good candidate for a VBA3C and agreed to take me on as a patient. I cancelled my appointment I had scheduled with the OB because I already knew they would say no to a VBA3C. I still had to convince my husband, and to be honest, myself, that this was a good idea. I mean, not only was I going for a VBA3C, it was a homebirth too. I had never thought about a homebirth. It sounded crazy especially since I was supposedly high risk after having 3 c-sections, right? I prayed and prayed and prayed about it. I finally felt at peace about it. One thing Christy had told me, which I told my husband, was that I could change my mind at anytime. He agreed I could go for it but I knew he wasn’t on board and thought I wouldn’t really follow through with it.
Each appointment with Christy made me feel more and more comfortable with my decision. I knew I was doing the right thing for our family. I didn’t tell many people what I was doing because I knew the controversy surrounding it and I didn’t want to hear all the negativity, especially from people who were not very educated on the subject. Jarad and I didn’t talk about it either. Every time we did, it ended in an argument. If I heard him say “There’s a reason hospitals don’t allow VBA3Cs,” one more time, I was going to punch him in the face. So we just didn’t go there.
My pregnancy went well. I worked out. I also ran my first marathon at 5 months pregnant. I received chiropractic care weekly starting at 32 weeks. I did have some random things happen towards the end that ended up not being a big deal. I had some severe itching and swelling, and developed high blood pressure again. I went on bed rest at 37 weeks and it all cleared up except the itching, but even that got better. This pregnancy my stomach was huge. Christy had said I had plenty of fluid, but wasn’t concerned. We knew I was going to have a larger than average baby, meaning over 8 pounds or so, but that was to be expected as all my babies were over 8 pounds. I loved the hands off approach of this pregnancy. I had an ultrasound at 9 weeks to determine my EDD, I had another at 25 weeks, at my request, to make sure the placenta wasn’t embedded in the incision or anything crazy like that, and I was never checked vaginally. Starting around 32-34 weeks, I was having Braxton Hicks. Totally random and annoying but that was it. I had no idea if I was making any progress. I was mentally prepared to go to 42 weeks and to have a long pushing stage as this was my first vaginal birth and I had never labored. I had no birth plan. I didn’t want one because I didn’t want to think about it. I trusted Christy and her partner, Jenni, and knew they would take care of me. If they said I needed a c-section, I knew I needed one. We had a back up plan and the nearest hospital was 2 miles away so I wasn’t worried about that. I had a birthing pool that I planned on using to labor in. I didn’t know if I wanted a water birth. I figured I would just see how things went.
I had been taking a bath almost every night before bed just to help with the itching and to relax a little. Friday, April 25, I didn’t take a bath before bed. I was tired. But at 3 am Saturday morning, my two year old came in our room and woke me up. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I started watching Netfilx on the iPad. I could tell I was bothering my husband and I had started itching again so I went to take a bath and watch the movie while I was in the tub. I started having those annoying Braxton Hicks again. I got out of the tub after a while and lie back down. It was probably around 6 am and I still couldn’t sleep. Around 7 am the contractions started back and were getting closer together. I couldn’t tell if they were getting stronger and longer, but they would stop for a while and then start back again. I assumed this was the prodromal labor I had heard about where it starts and stops. I knew this could go on for days. I got back in the tub to try and relax a bit. For an hour, the contractions were about 6-7 minutes apart but then they stopped again. I then had a little bit of a bloody show. It was 8 am and I texted Christy to tell her what had been going on. I told her I was surprised how bad the contractions hurt this early on. Not that the they hurt that bad but I thought if it is this uncomfortable now, I can’t imagine how bad they will hurt when I am actually in labor. Christy told me to get some rest, stay hydrated, and go for a brisk walk. At 10:45 I texted Christy to tell her I couldn’t rest, I lost a bunch more of the mucous plug and for the past 20 minutes, contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart, and I never went for that walk. At this point, the contractions were starting to hurt some. She called to check on me and said they would head over in a couple hours. I assured her I was fine and there was no need to rush over. She called back about an hour later and said they were going to go ahead and come over. The kids had a t-ball game at noon. Jarad was loading them in car and when he came back in to tell me bye and I leaned over and grabbed the dresser during a contraction. He immediately got the kids out of the car and said he wasn’t leaving. I told him everything was fine, Christy and Jenni would be there soon, my parents were on their way, this will last a long time, just take the kids to their game. He refused to leave me. Instead, he aired up the birthing tub. Christy and Jenni arrived a little after 1 PM. She said she wanted to check me. I expected her to say I was at a 2 or something. I was prepared for this to last all day. When she said I was a 10 and ready to push, I was shocked! No wonder the contractions were hurting worse than I expected. I was in active labor. I wasn’t ready for this. The birthing tub hadn’t been filled up, the birth photographer wasn’t here, I couldn’t have this baby yet.
Christy told me to sit on the toilet for a couple contractions to see if the pressure would build in my pelvis. I had a few contractions standing up then I lay down to start pushing. It get’s a little blurry here but I remember screaming and grunting. Not really because it hurt super bad but because it was more of a way to release energy from the push. Christy told me to put all of that energy into the push. She also advised me to tuck my chin when pushing. It was then that I thought maybe I should have taken a birthing class. The baby had never dropped so I pushed him from pretty high up. My water broke during a push. As baby was coming the contractions were on top of each other and I couldn’t catch my breath. This is where it got painful. I think I was holding my breath and I thought I was going to pass out. I started saying I couldn’t do this but Christy, Jenni, and Jarad were all telling me I could. Actually I think they said I had to because the baby’s head was coming out. There was so much pressure. Then I felt an intense burning sensation and I remember thinking this must be what the ring of fire feels like. Then I started wondering how long it was supposed to last. The baby came out the next push. If I understand correctly, the entire baby pretty much came out during one push. Christy laid the baby on my chest. I have never had a messy baby laying on me. I didn’t know what to do. We checked the gender and it was boy. I was in complete awe. We had hoped for a boy. I remember just moaning and saying really weird things at this point. I’m pretty sure I was in shock. I was just trying to comprehend everything that had just happened. It had all happened so fast. I believe the entire labor was less than 3 hours. I did get a 2nd degree tear so I lay there a while getting stitched up. I think Christy was trying to slow me down so she could stretch me but I was pushing really hard and he slid out so fast, there wasn’t really much she could do.
Now for the fun part, we got to find out what the baby weighed. We all told each other our guesses but I think we were all completely shocked when Christy announced he was 11 pounds, 2 ounces. I for sure did not expect that at all. His head was 15 ¾ inches and he was 21 ¾ inches long. I asked Christy why his head wasn’t cone shaped. She said because there was plenty of room for him to come out. (Remember my first baby who was 8 pounds 4 ounces with a 14 inch head was too big to fit through the birth canal.) Christy and Jenni helped the baby and I take a herb bath. They helped with nursing which led to Hudson and I having a great nursing relationship from the beginning; something I wasn’t able to have with the other babies. They stayed until everything was cleaned up and baby and I were snuggled in bed. Additionally, Christy and Jenni called and texted me to check on me several times, and all postpartum and baby visits over the next few weeks were done at my home which was so much easier on us than having to load the baby up and go to appointments.
I am still amazed that after having three c-sections and being told I would never be able to have a vaginal birth, I pushed an 11 pound, 2 ounce baby out of my vagina, at home in my bed, all natural with no pain medications. We give all the glory to God who protected us while we brought this precious life into this world. I can’t thank Christy and Jenni enough for their belief in me. Although, my husband wasn’t really on board with all this, he was perfect during the delivery. He was supportive when I needed him to be and has reminded me several times how awesome I am for doing what I did.
I don’t regret my first three c-sections but I do wish I was educated enough to avoid a c-section in the first place. I never felt broken but I felt like there was a void. After becoming more educated I felt confident that my first three c-sections were completely unnecessary. I still had a very strong desire for a natural birth but I struggled finding support. It wasn’t an easy process to get the birth I wanted but it was well worth the journey. My HBA3C was very empowering. It was my biggest feat, both physically and emotionally. I hope my story encourages others to become more educated, think for themselves, have a voice, and be empowered. Our bodies are amazing and when given the chance, they will work just like God made them to work.