This birth story is the first of other home birth stories to come, told to me by a mother and shared here for others contemplating home birth and VBAC.
This is a story of two births. It is my second-born Fenimore's birth story, but without my first-born Khady's birth story, Fenimore's story would have been radically different. It wasn't until I read Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, that I began to more fully understand that equality is not necessarily a good thing when raising kids and that beauty can lie in inequality. If I had not had a Cesarean, I would never have had a homebirth. And so I share my story, for Khady and for Fen, and for women who are wanting a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).
The morning of October 28, I made an extra effort to spend time with Khady. I had a sense that there would be few moments left to devote all of my attention to my first-born. Though walking was, at this point, uncomfortable, hand-in-hand we covered the eight blocks to the Halloween celebration at the school where Khady played two days a week. My Braxton-Hicks contractions were frequent now and gaining in strength. I remember feeling a bit awkward, and at least one mom asked how I was doing.
“I think I am in labor,” I revealed, as 2- and 3-year-old lions, princesses and astronauts milled around. Khady was a bright orange tiger.
We both picked at lunch that afternoon, having stuffed ourselves at the party. While waiting for Matt to come home I played the CD I made for the birth and we danced. The dancing drew my contractions closer together and I hugged Khady tight.
We had lasagna for dinner, the third night in a row, my desire for cooking having disappeared a few months back. After dinner, I called my midwife, and suggested I might be calling again in the middle of the night.
I slept two hours. Sometime after 11 pm the contractions woke me up. An extrovert who remains closely in touch with my community, I spent time emailing friends and talking on the phone with my sister, parents and in-laws.
I decided to call Ruthcarol around 1 am and ask her to come over. Then I called our midwife, and around 1:30 am I called Lori. According to Lori I sounded way too up-beat to be far along in labor. Lori had to nurse her baby, a VBAC she had that summer, and would then make the drive from Virginia. Ruthcarol arrived shortly after I called Lori, being only a short drive away.
Somewhere between phone calls I moved from the keyboard to the birth ball and slowly circled my hips with contractions. I asked Matt to put on Krishna Das, a favorite for my yoga practice, but after two minutes, I called for my labor CD. My water had broken, a pea-soup color because of meconium (baby poop) and I felt a twinge of nervousness flow through me. In all my careful and methodical preparations for birth, I had not researched meconium. I called my midwife who reassured me that things were probably fine.
Thirty minutes earlier I had been debating whether or not to call for support, but by the time Ruthcarol arrived I was thanking God for making doulas. Ruthcarol found me in the bathroom. Even now I can see her calm face peaking around the corner. I moved back to the birth ball, this time Ruthcarol's, which was much more comfortable. Ruthcarol massaged and applied counter-pressure to my lower back and Matt filled up the birth pool. The house was filled with the sounds of gospel music and scent of lavender.
The Midwife arrived just after 2:30 am and I was laboring on my knees in the warm birth pool. Her trust of birth was tangible and I sensed a change in the energy of our house. She checked (soon-to-be-born) Fenimore’s heart rate, because there had been meconium, and all sounded good. Lori arrived soon after the midwife. The night continued on, wrapping around me in my yoga room, and intermingling with the scent of the lavender from the clay diffuser. I remember staring at the dancing flame in meditation.
Matt stayed by my side, rubbing my arm and hair, Lori, holding my hands, and Ruthcarol massaging my back. The Midwife was in the kitchen sterilizing her instruments. I remember feeling pushy and Lori running downstairs to talk to the midwife, who, though downstairs, knew by the sound of my moaning that I was indeed preparing to push. The Midwife said to Lori, "She can just keep doing what she's doing." And so I did.
At 3:45 am I wondered if my pushes were bringing the baby down. They say old fears resurface in your VBAC and despite my regular meditation practice and intense emotional preparation for the birth, surface they did. I pushed for two to three hours with Khady, and ended up having a Cesarean. My midwife reassured me that all would work out, and I remember looking deep into her eyes, feeling her hand on my arm, and knowing deep in my heart that the my baby was only moments away. I sang through and between contractions.
Fenimore's was born at 4:07 am. I fumbled for a split moment, ecstatic, my hands slipping, and then pulled him to my chest. A good six ounces heavier then Khady — those VBAC babies are always bigger.
Photo by Fotolia/Aaron Amat