My first baby was a homebirth transfer that ended in a cesarean after 30 hours of labor. I struggled SO much after his birth. I felt like a failure. I felt so guilty. I was ridiculed, abused, threatened, and coerced by hospital staff. They made rude remarks about the dangers of home birth. They shoved their fingers in my vagina while I pushed for hours. I wanted them to stop, but I couldn’t form the words to tell them to stop after being in labor for over 24 hours and being pumped full of fentanyl. They threatened to call Child Protective Services on me until I consented to certain medical procedures. After that experience, I decided I didn’t want any more kids because I didn’t want to feel that way ever again and didn’t want to have another C-section. I struggled for months with postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and PTSD.
Fast forward 15 months and we got pregnant with our second. Not quite intentional, but happily welcomed. I had worked through a lot of my trauma in EMDR therapy and was ready to try for my HBAC (homebirth after cesarean).
I hired the midwife from my first birth because we still had a great relationship and I absolutely adore her. Plus she’s 100% supportive of VBACs and never once questioned my decision to birth at home. I took two online birth classes. I listened to podcasts. I took tons of supplements. I hired a doula. I saw a chiropractor my entire pregnancy. I worked with a birth story listener to work through some more of the trauma surrounding my birth. And I had dual care with an OB who would be my backup “just in case.” I actually felt mentally ready after months of planning and even got to a place emotionally where I would have been ok if my birth ended up in the hospital again.
My surprise sex baby was “due” July 2nd. That came and went. By July 16th, I was willing to try some gentle and natural induction methods since my husband was leaving in 12 days for military training and I didn’t want to give birth without him. I took caulophyllum & cimicifuga homeopathic for about 6 hours and IT WORKED! Around 7 pm on July 16th, I was having mild, but consistent contractions. I showered, straightened up the house/birth space, and then sat down on my bed and cried. I was scared. It was TWO years to the day that I was in labor with my first baby. I needed to speak my fears out loud. I was afraid to transfer again. I was afraid my birth would end up the exact same way... with a transfer and a C-section.
By 9:30pm, I was having to really focus and breathe through contractions. My doula came over shortly after to help me cope with the pain. By 11:30, I called my midwife and photographer and asked them to come. I labored out of the water for a while, which is something I requested. I didn’t want my baby to end up in a poor position like my first (the reason for my cesarean). I eventually got in the water to help relieve some of my pain.
After a few hours, I requested my one and only cervical check during my whole pregnancy and I told my midwife not to tell me if I was less than a 5, but only tell me if I was more than a 5. Clearly logic had started escaping me since I was in active labor! I was an EIGHT! After only a few hours of labor. I was ecstatic. But I was getting close to transition and starting to lose it. I vaguely remember saying “this f***ing hurts” and about two seconds later praying that Jesus would help me! And then asking my birth team to help me... with what? I have no idea. I never once asked to transfer or asked for pain relief. I think I was so scared that I’d have to transfer that it didn’t even cross my mind to ask. During this time, I asked my birth team to start reading my affirmations out loud to me. Some of my affirmations were:
I am prepared for whatever birth my body and baby need
Relaxed jaw, relaxed hands, soft cervix
I can do hard things
It is ok to be scared
I am doing the best I can with what I know
I will meet my baby soon
and my mantra...
My birth will go exactly as it should
When deciding which affirmations I needed, I went with ones that focused more on surrendering to the flow of birth rather than affirmations that were absolutely certain that I would have a vaginal birth. For me, personally, I needed to hear things that would make sense if I had a vaginal birth or another C-section.
After a few more hours, I started feeling the urge to push while I was in the birth pool. I pushed on my back for a while and my baby’s head was descending, but he kept slipping back up. At that point I started sobbing. I was TERRIFIED that the exact same thing was happening again. I pushed for 13 hours total with my first baby. He was asynclitic and OP and never descended past my pubic bone. My midwife reassured me that my baby’s head was further down than my first baby’s head ever got. MORE TEARS. I couldn’t believe he was actually coming. I was actually going to push out a baby. I tried a few more positions in the pool- hands & knees and lunges.
After making little progress, my team got me out of the pool and sat me on my Squatty Potty with some chucks pads with my husband behind me for support. I pushed for a total of 3 1/2 hours and my surprise boy finally came flying out at 6:38am! I was in awe. Shock. I never thought this would or could happen. After my C-section, I hated my body. I hated how it failed me. I was so disconnected from myself. After that moment, I felt so at peace. This body that had once felt like it betrayed me, did something I wanted. I was so proud of myself.
We sat for a while in awe of our sweet boy. I pushed out my placenta (I was terrified it was going to hurt — it didn’t) and I was so excited to see it. I felt like a weirdo to be excited for that... but I actually grieved those little things during my first birth. I felt like I was actually involved in my birth this time... I got to see things and make choices for myself and do things on my own terms.
After the precious golden hour that I never got with my first boy, they stitched me up (two 2nd degree tears) and did the newborn exam. My baby was 9 pounds 1 ounce. Almost a full pound bigger than my first baby! According to my medical records, the reason for my C-section was “a small pelvis.” Ha! In your face, doctor!
I’m not going to lie, my VBAC physical healing has been rough. Maybe even rougher than my C-section. But mentally I didn’t even have the typical baby blues a lot of women have after birth. I have been emotionally and mentally healthy this time around and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
My two boys were born the exact same day. July 17, 2017 and July 17, 2019. My first baby’s birth was one of the hardest days of my life and I feel like that day has been redeemed for me.