Friday, August 20, 2010

Patient Story: Repeat C/S gone wrong

I met a very nice couple who had recently birthed their second baby. The baby was perfect and just so sweet. The mom, however, was very very frustrated with her experience and when I found out why, I was so so sad for her.

She had a routine scheduled repeat c-section. Not an emergency. No rush. It was supposed to be "controlled" and "relaxed". However, during the surgery, the mother apparently overheard her OB telling the resident "No! Stop! You're cutting too much!" which, as you can imagine, was very distressing for this poor mother who was strapped down, helpless, to the operating table. Apparently, the bladder was cut. In a botched attempt to repair the damage, the bladder was accidentally sutured to the uterus (how does that happen????). They didn't realize the mistake until the day after the birth, when the mom complained of tremendous pain and had terrible hematuria. Her foley bag was bright red with blood. They took her back in, opened her back up, and fixed the misplaced suture. This was quite the traumatic experience for the mom, who then had to pump and dump her breast milk because the antibiotic she is on (adding insult to injury).

I just feel so sorry for her. This never should have happened.

Cesareans are major surgeries. Risks are very real.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Natural Birth feels like

Its only 8 weeks since my last birth, but I've already forgotten what labor feels like! I love "labor amnesia!" That amazing hormone cocktail that is released after birth is strong stuff!

A lot of my mom-friends love their epidurals and are deathly afraid of natural birth. My goal today is to show you there's nothing to be afraid of. It's not *that* bad! I loved my natural birth!

(disclaimer: these descriptions are what I felt. All labors are a little bit different and not every woman is the same)

I'll try to remember and accurately describe what birth felt like to me:

Natural Labor Contractions: an intense pressure. I wouldn't even call it "pain" because there is nothing sharp about it- just intense pressure. It is uncomfortable, but the sensations have purpose and there is nothing to fear and they won't harm your body. They come in waves, starting gradually and building in intensity until they peak and then lose intensity again. It started at the top of my uterus and then spread downward until it covered my entire abdomen (I've heard most women say that it started at the bottom and worked its way up, though). For me, my contractions started 2-3 minutes apart with a 1 minute break in between. They continued in that pattern the entire labor, only increasing in intensity for several hours, and then it was very repetitive and predictable. I knew exactly what to expect and feel with each new contraction and could practice and perfect the right coping technique for me. A few hours into it, and I had mastered the contractions. I had back labor for the first half, and that just felt like a strong back ache with some shooting sensations down my hips and legs (very uncomfortable, but again, it was predictable and thus, manageable). I still felt the majority of the contractions in the front over my entire abdomen.

Rupture of membranes: my water broke spontaneously with my first labor. It literally felt and sounded like a "POP!" like when you pop bubble wrap. My water was broken by my midwife (amniotomy) with my second labor and I didn't feel anything (it just felt like a normal vaginal exam) until the warm water started rushing out.

Pushing: AMAZING! I loved pushing. It was incredible. The discomfort from my contractions subsided when I pushed. It was so powerful. It felt so "right". There was no way I couldn't push at that point! My body just took over. Be prepared to make some interesting "primal" noises!

Crowning: BURNING! That is all I can say. This was the only point in my labor that it actually "hurt." The good news is: it's over with very quickly! Even if the baby is born slowly, after only a few minutes of crowing, your vaginal tissue stretches and the burning subsides. Do some prenatal perineal massage ahead of time and you'll get a glimpse of what it will feel like.

Birth: All the pain vanishes. It's crazy. As soon as the baby is out, your perineum is just kind of numb. And the euphoria of birth takes over. Your body literally produces its own anesthesia!

Third Stage: pushing the placenta out was a piece of cake. It just felt like a big clot coming out. Everything is still so open and stretched and kind of numb from the birth. I barely even noticed it.

Suturing: My midwife gave me a shot of local before suturing my tiny 1st degree tear. The shot wasn't that big of a deal- I was too busy fawning over my baby!

Afterbirth contractions: These are the contractions you get after the baby is born to shrink the uterus back down and close off blood vessels. They usually get stronger with each baby. These were just as strong and intense as labor contractions and I would get them on and off for the first two days. Be prepared to relax and breathe through them! In a way, they were actually worse than labor contractions because I didn't know when they were coming and they weren't predictable.

I used a self-hypnosis program called Hypnobabies which REALLY helped me cope and relax through labor. I highy recommend Hypnobabies for all moms who want a natural birth. I will discuss the program in a future post. Hypnobabies helped me to alleviate my fears about natural birth and the self-hypnosis techniques that it teaches helped me to experience the contractions as only pressure and not pain. Pretty awesome!

Why I hate epidurals

Don't get me wrong- while I was in labor with my first baby, I LOVED my epidural! I'm not a masochist!

BUT- I am convinced that my epidural is what caused my c-section... something I would love (more than almost anything!) to have avoided!

I went into my first labor wanting to have a natural childbirth. However, many people encouraged me to "have an open mind" because "you don't know what your pain tolerance will be like!" So many of my friends' labor advice was simply "get the epidural!"

I felt manipulated to have an induction because of a misdiagnosis of low amniotic fluid levels. The first four hours of active labor on the pitocin were difficult, but bearable. I was coping fairly well with my husband providing counterpressure on my low back. "I'm doing it! I can totally do this!" I kept thinking.

Then... my water broke! Immediately, the contractions intensified and fear overwhelmed me. The contractions were long, hard, and close together. I felt like I had no relief. I reluctantly asked for an epidural. I felt like I had no choice. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. Pitocin-induced labor was ridiculously intense and painful.

It took 45 minutes for the epidural to get placed. The first attempt caused ringing in my ears, a metallic taste in my mouth and it caused my heart to race. It was incredibly scary. Finally... after the second attempt, I had a "good" epidural and I found relief. I couldn't feel a thing from below my breasts to my toes. I was completely numb.

Because I was less tense and was able to relax (and those pit contractions were STRONG), my cervix dilated very quickly. I went from 4cm to 10 cm in an hour. Then, I had to start pushing.

Pushing was a nightmare. I couldn't feel anything! I didn't know when I was having a contraction. I didn't know when to push. I didn't know how to push or where to push. I tried the best I could. I pushed for three hours. I felt totally out of control- the nurse kept "coaching me" to push longer and harder (I'm already giving it all I got!). I felt like I wasn't making any progress at all. It was only afterward that my husband told me that he could see the top of the baby's head for at least a good hour of pushing. I tried SO hard to not look over my shoulder at the clock. It was so disheartening after a while. All my work in vain.

Then... because of my epidural and at the suggestion of my nurse and the hospitalist midwife who managed my labor, I pushed flat on my back while pulling on a knotted bedsheet. This was awful. I had horrible heartburn and the pulling caused tremendous strain on my arms and shoulders and they HURT for days afterward.

Because I was flat on my back, my baby rotated and was now occiput posterior (we didn't know at the time) and that was why I was having such a difficult time pushing him out. The prolonged second stage caused fetal distress and sent me to the OR.

To this day, I still have AWFUL itching at my epidural site on my back about once a week! Do any of you have strange post-epidural symptoms?

The thing that kills me is that I knew that this could happen. Before my first labor, I read this article: Changes in fetal position during labor and their association with epidural anesthesia, by Lieberman, Davidson, Lee-Parritz, and Shearer, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in Sept 2005. The conclusion? "Fetal position changes are common during labor, with the final fetal position established close to delivery. Our demonstration of a strong association of epidural with fetal occiput posterior position at delivery represents a mechanism that may contribute to the lower rate of spontaneous vaginal delivery consistently observed with epidural."

That's exactly what happened with me.

I also read this: "Regional analgesia for pain relief increased the likelihood of instrumental vaginal delivery" in the article "Effect of availability of a parturient-elective regional labor pain relief service on the mode of delivery" by Hwa, Chen, Chen, et al in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association in Sept 2006.


My sister in law (I love her dearly) also had a c-section for her first birth and wants to have a VBAC. My biggest piece of practical advice? Stay away from the epidural! Labor at home as long as possible and have as natural a birth as possible!

Unfortunately... she loved her epidural with her first baby (she only labored for 45 minutes without one!) and she is one of the women that tell others "just get the epidural!"

Women love their pain relief. Well... here's a little secret. Natural labor and birth aren't that bad!!! If you have adequate coping and relaxing techniques, it's very manageable!

My next post will be about what natural childbirth actually felt like for me. I would go through a natural labor 10 times before I'd sign up for a cesarean!

What are Glory Birthings?

David Crowder (my favorite musician) has a song entitled "How He Loves" on his latest album called Church Music. While I was worshiping to this song last week, I was struck by how this song reminded me of my VBAC and I was just completely overcome with emotion, as I reflected on how merciful the Lord was to me by giving me everything I prayed for for this birth.

Here are some of the lyrics:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

I just kept thinking about labor- how intense and exhausting it is. It's like being caught in a storm.... but then as the baby is born:
"...all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me."

Eclipsed by Glory! How awesome is that? When my sweet victory baby was born and immediately placed on my chest, and I felt her warm wet skin and heard her lusty cry, it was absolutely glorious! The past 15 hours of hard work and discomfort were washed away by the strong wave of relief, pure joy, exhilaration, and deep love for my baby that poured over me.
In the wake of this intense glory wave, I was just left in awe of my God and his incredible design. There was nothing to do except praise Him.

Glory means:
1. praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to God
2. magnificence; great beauty
3. a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight

Glory Birthings are the ones that cause you to give praise. They are magnificent and beautiful. And they cause great delight!

Glory Birthings are the ones that leave you so elated and empowered that you just feel like singing. All the time. 8 weeks after my VBAC, and I am still flying!

Also... less noticeably, Glory Birthings are the ones that change and shape us into something beautiful, even if it hurts. My first birth was very difficult... I suffered from PPD like so many other women I know who have experienced traumatic births. It is deeply unfortunate to have to experience such hardship, especially when many times it is unnecessary. Two years later, though, and I am finally starting to see this birth as a Glory Birth, too. It has taken a long time and lots of prayer, but the arrival of a sweet and glorious newborn babe, the result of a glorious pregnancy, eclipses all affliction that I experienced to get him here. And I am SO thankful! I am starting to see myself not as a victim of an unfortunate culture of fear in our health care system, but as a mother who loves her child so deeply, that she would lay down her life and give up her body for his well being.

I'm not saying that we should just forget what happened to us and just let unnecessary surgical births continue to occur- oh no! We need to use our experiences as catalysts for change. We also need to stop wallowing in our despair and start helping other moms finish their grieving and heal, and to help new moms prevent the grieving from starting at all.

My prayer is that every mom can see her birth- no matter what happened- as a Glory Birth! We, as women, are the crown of creation. Our bodies can do remarkable things. Let us reclaim our births, our bodies, and our emotions! Even if our hopes for a birth were stolen from us, let us not let the glory, the magnificence, of our accomplishments (the beautiful children that we created) be stolen as well.

Both of my births were incredibly transformative and integral parts to my story. They were both glorious. And I praise God for both.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I love breastfeeding

My baby girl just had her 2 month shots at her well-visit. The following day, the poor babe was miserable, achy, feverish, and fussy.

The miracle cure? Nursing, of course! As soon as I would put her to breast, she would instantly settle down, and look up at me with her big, blue, sparkling eyes.

It makes me so happy to be able to offer her something so comforting, so soothing.

Before babies, I always had a very small chest. I never liked my breasts. They were small and insignificant. I never thought of myself as "sexy" and, like most teenagers, had a bit of a hard time with self-esteem.

Now, as I am breastfeeding my second baby, I sometimes stop to marvel at my body! My breasts are round and warm with milk. They are amazing! I see the beauty in their purpose. Whenever I feel myself letting down, I am grateful for the wondrous relationship that breastfeeding allows me to have with my child. I can provide her with instant nutrition and comfort even after birth. Some people, after spending several hours visiting with me and baby, will comment "wow, she needs to eat again?! didn't she just eat?" I just giggle a little and explain that breastfeeding is SO MUCH MORE than just infant nutrition. It is a special way that only I can use to bond with my baby. I put her to breast whenever she wants it. I don't mind at all! It is not at all a chore or a burden. My sweet little daughter is instantly comforted by my warmth and I enjoy the skin-to-skin snuggling as I hold her to my breast. It is one of the most rewarding experiences of motherhood. It also helped me to SLOW DOWN and spend time relaxing with my baby. Breastfeeding forces me to just stop and focus on my baby. I know she loves that!

Breastfeeding, though, has not always been easy or fun! With my first baby (who was a very hungry 9 lb 6 oz boy!), my mature milk didn't come in until the end of my 4th postpartum day because I was a first time mom and I had a C-Section. Sometimes milk production is delayed in moms who deliver by cesarean because the body is so focused on healing at the incision site to focus on making milk. Those first few days of motherhood were so exhausting. I tried to rest and recover, while breastfeeding my infant every 1-2 hours. Later, we also struggled with a bout of mastitis and I almost lost my milk supply after a nasty stomach flu.

With my second baby, the first week was grueling. I was terribly engorged for 6 whole days and the baby had a hard time latching. Nursing a baby who suckles vigorously on two cracked and bleeding nipples is NOT FUN! Thankfully, though, I healed quickly after engorgement, and we've had no issues since. (Except that I learned the hard way that I can't eat cheesecake or ice cream, unless I want to clean up puke all day!)

Even with these minor setbacks and challenges, I LOVE breastfeeding! It is such a special gift I can offer my baby. I had a fabulous time nursing my first baby, and we only weaned at 15 months because he was no longer interested. I hope that I can nurse my second baby even longer.

As a nurse in an inner-city hospital, I am pleased with our high breastfeeding rates, but I am grateful for moms who lovingly bottle feed, too. I wish everyone could have the same sweet nursing relationship with their babies that I have, but I'm just glad when moms feed their babies at all!

Why do you love breastfeeding?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introduction (or how I became birth-obsessed!)

I realized it was time to start a new blog when my personal blog became completely over-run with birth-related posts! Since not everyone is as in love with birth as I am, I decided to move all of my birth posts here.

First a little introduction to myself: I am a registered nurse currently working in a newborn nursery. I sometimes float to the NICU. My job is to take care of newborns from 2 hours of age until discharge from the hospital. I am now crosstraining to attend deliveries and take care of infants immediately following birth. In nursing school, I did a preceptorship in Labor and Delivery at a high risk perinatal center and saw a lot of "interesting" births.

I had my first birth in 2008. My son was born via emergency C/S after pushing for 3 hours (pitocin induction for oligohydramnios with subsequent epidural for those excruciating pitocin contractions which caused a posterior fetal presentation). It was a horrible experience that left me struggling with PPD. Twenty-two months later, in June 2010, I had my very own "glory birth" - the empowering and healing natural hospital VBAC of my 9 lb 7.8 oz daughter. This birth was incredible!

When the kids are older, it is my intent to go back to school and get my masters to become a CNM. My personal experiences have shaped me and changed me and I feel absolutely compelled to assist women in their birthings. I want help them achieve that immense personal satisfaction that I felt after my natural birth, and avoid the bitterness, guilt, and depression of birth trauma that I experienced after my C/S.

This is a place to organize and share my thoughts as I journey toward birth work and reflect on my own birth experiences.

Judah's Birth (or how I became a "VBAC candidate")

[written when 28 weeks pregnant with my second baby]

I don't really like talking about Judah's birth, because a lot of people don't understand my intense emotional reaction to it. Many people say "well, just be glad that you have a healthy baby". I am so glad! But it is so much more than that... Contrary to what many OBGYNs may think, C/S is not "just another way to have a baby". It left me deflated and disheartened. Judah's birth was by far the most difficult thing I've ever had to face.

Now that my abdomen is "blossoming" (the nicest way anyone has ever said that I'm huge in my midsection), several people have asked me if I'm planning a repeat c-section or if I'm allowed to try for a vaginal delivery with this baby girl. I tell them that I want to avoid another C/S like the plague!

Judah was born on August 5, 2008. Here is his birth story:
I had just graduated from nursing school, and I was a brand new registered nurse working in the newborn nursery. As part of my schooling, I had been witness to probably about 60 vaginal births and about 30 c-sections in the regional perinatal center where all the "high risk" mothers get sent to deliver. I had seen A LOT. I knew what could happen, what could go wrong. But I had also seen "perfect" births where everything went as it was supposed to. I was idealistic. The pregnancy had been amazing and I had no reason to believe I wouldn't have a pretty standard vaginal birth. I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy (during the late night periods of insomnia) researching clinical journal articles on the best pushing techniques, the pros/cons to epidural use, how to avoid episiotomy... My plan was to labor at home as long as I could, and then hit the hospital for the delivery. (In this area, there is no birth center and only one midwife who attends home deliveries and I was unaware of her practice at the time.) I wanted as natural a birth as possible.

Well... that didn't happen. 4 days after my due date, I was sent to the hospital for routine "overdue" fetal testing. Judah seemed perfect-- except that they couldn't get a good read on my amniotic fluid levels. I hadn't had any leaking (when you're past your due date, you are on hyper-alert for ANY sign of impending labor! Trust me, I would have noticed!) and my levels were great only a few days prior. So, I wasn't worried. But they were. I was escorted immediately to labor and delivery to begin an induction. I wasn't even allowed to go home to shower or get my hospital bag. SO not cool. I was very disappointed that I'd have such a medicalized labor, and I knew how intense induced labors could be (I had witnessed dozens of them). I asked the nurse if I could just go home, and she told me that I would have to check out "AMA" and "you don't want to do anything that could hurt your baby! You'd never forgive yourself! It looks like today's the day!" I felt hopeless and helpless already.

I was admitted at 2pm Monday. I was considered "high risk" now because of low amniotic fluid levels (oligohydramnios) and therefore had to be on constant fetal monitoring. Let me tell you, that was a TOTAL DRAG. My belly skin was impossibly stretched and very sensitive. Those monitors were tight and itchy and uncomfortable. And... I couldn't move around very well. I didn't get my cervidil placed (to soften the cervix) until 9pm that night! (so... yeah... 6 hours of waiting). Then they told me to sleep. haha. Yeah right. The labor/delivery bed was incredibly uncomfortable, and I had a nurse come in every 20-30 minutes or so to reposition the fetal monitor.

The next morning came... and again I had to wait. I was supposed to get the pitocin drip started at 10, but it didn't start until after noon. But, oh man, I immediately began to have intense contractions. Isaac, my husband, applied counterpressure to my low back, and my mom read scripture verses to me. It was painful, but bearable.... I thought, if this is how bad it gets, I can totally do this. And I began to get really excited about Judah's arrival. In between contractions, we played "bananagrams." I wanted to stay as positive as possible and make the most out of an unfortunate situation.

Then, at 4:30, my water broke with a loud "POP" in the bathroom. The contraction immediately following was a thousand times more painful than anything I had ever experienced. I couldn't breathe. I was by myself in the bathroom, and I felt I couldn't stand, walk, or even call out for help. The contraction mercifully faded and I stumbled out of the bathroom, dragging my IV pole, as I huffed and puffed through shallow breaths to my husband that "water broke... call the nurse." Another MONSTER contraction hit and again, I felt totally helpless against the relentless pain that seemed to know no bounds. I felt the entirety of every contraction in the front, across my entire pregnant belly. It felt like it was on fire. It was this incredible tightness, like a boa constrictor was squeezing the life out of me. When the contraction passed, I whispered "epidural".

When it normally takes about 15 minutes to have the epidural catheter placed, mine took 45. It was originally placed in a "bad" spot which left me with ringing in my ears, heart palpatations, and a metallic taste in my mouth. Those things are never good. Sitting there on the bed, haunched over my squeezing abdomen, unable to move for 45 minutes was literally torture. But the end result-- let's just say I had a very good epidural!

Right before the epidural was put in, I was at 4cm. An hour later (and much needed rest), I was at 10! I couldn't believe it! I was completely elated and rejuvenated! I was so happy. Because of the epidural, though, I couldn't feel the urge to push. So I requested to let the baby passively descend before I tried.

Right before 8pm, my drill-sergeant for a nurse told me I had to start pushing. It was right after shift change, and they didn't feel like waiting any longer. I hated being that I felt so out of control and was being bossed around. I asked if I could push on my side, and she said "you can try for 15 minutes, but after that, if its not working, you're going to do things my way." Well, needless to say it wasn't working. I couldn't feel the contractions, so I didn't know when to push. I felt very ineffective. Apparently, Judah's head had come down, and Isaac told me later that he could see his little head with his dark shiny hair, but his head kept hitting my pubic bone and was getting stuck. The nurse had me lay flat on my back and pull on the end of a knotted bedsheet that went up over the birthing bar they had set up on the bed and was being held on the other end by a medical student (that poor student!). I was supposed to pull against the sheet in a tug of war each time I pushed. If anyone ever asks you to push in this position, SAY NO! It was awful. I had terrible heartburn from laying flat on my back and my shoulders and arms were tremendously sore for days afterward. Anyway, I pushed like this for another 2 1/2 hours. That's when the hospitalist midwife that was managing my labor said that I should be examined by the attending physician and that we might have to use a vacuum (did I mention that my own doctor never came?). The attending OB came in, did a quick exam, and announced that the baby was posterior (the back of the baby's head should be facing up, and the midwife told me all along that Judah was like this -"occiput anterior." But now, the back of his head was facing down... How the heck did he get so twisted during pushing? Laying flat on my back and not being able to move because of the epidural was probably the worst thing I could have done). The doctor tried to manually rotate his head during the next contraction, but when he did that, I gushed some meconium-tinged amniotic fluid (I had originally ruptured clear), and the monitor showed decels (the baby's heart rate was showing distress). So, the next thing I hear is "emergency c-section."

At this point, everything gets really hazy in my memory. I remember feeling so totally disappointed and helpless, then angry, and then really really numb. I got prepped quickly, and then I remember staring at the ceiling tiles, totally limp, wondering if Judah's birthday would be August 5th or 6th as they wheeled me to the OR. Is this really happening? It was now about 11:30pm.

When I was strapped down to the OR table, the anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask on my face, and clamped the nose piece so tight around my nose, that it was completely plugged. I felt like I couldn't breathe and began to hyperventilate. I also began to feel nauseous, and so the anesthesiologist (who in my opinion was a complete jerk with zero empathy... he played on his iPhone the entire surgery) tightly held an alcohol swab under my nose. I struggled to get away-- it was already hard to breathe without this guy holding my face down like that. I kept yelling "stop that!" and he just cooly responded with "I heard somewhere that this helps with nausea." Great. Thanks. At this point, too, I began to get "the shakes". I guess it's from all the adrenaline. My whole upper body began convulsing. It didn't stop until about an hour after the baby was born.

The doctor used his prickly tweezers to test the anesthesia. "Can you feel this?" "YES!" I said as I felt the sharp poke. Adjustments were made... "How about now?" "YES!" The anesthesiologist jerk said "No, you can't feel that!" And I screamed at him "YES I CAN!". More adjustments were made and I felt more and more numb.

Two of my friends from the nursery (the unit where I work) were suddenly at my side. Our evening shift ends at 11, and they saw that I was having a c-section, so they came to join me and support me. I'm telling you, they were lifesavers. Donna held my hand while Jen held that stupid O2 mask off my nose so that I could breathe. Isaac was there, too, praying for his poor wife who was just falling apart.

Everything was happening so fast. I heard someone say that they were going to push the baby back up (I guess all the pushing just lodged him in between my pelvic bones, but because of his positioning, I wasn't able to push him out). A bunch of shuffling... then some metal instruments clanging back against the tray. Then the doctor yelling to his assistant "NO, NO! Not YET!" which is something no person should ever hear during surgery.

Nothing can ever prepare you for the PRESSURE of a c-section. Contractions stop when they numb you, so after the incision is made, the surgeon and assistant put their body weight on top of your belly to push the baby down and out of the opening. Although I couldn't feel "pain", this pressure was enormous. I felt like an elephant was using me as a chair. Meanwhile, I'm nauseous, exhausted, have heartburn, am claustrophobic from that stupid O2 mask, and my upper body is still convulsing. This was definitely the worst experience of my life.

11:44pm: I didn't hear Judah cry. The first sound I heard when he was born was gasps from everyone in the room over his size! "Oh my gosh, Sigrid, you birthed a toddler!" That is another thing that no new mom should hear right after the crazy birth of her precious little baby. [Note to hospital staff: when a baby is first born, no matter what, you should comment on the baby's cuteness! Please, for the poor exhausted mother's sake!]

Because of the meconium, the neonatologist was there at the baby warmer. It was a few minutes yet until I heard his lusty cry. I couldn't see anything. The first visual evidence of my baby that I saw was his ENORMOUS foot print that someone brought over for me to see. At this point, exhausted and disheartened, I illogically began blaming the baby for everything that happened. My poor husband who was so scared and silent this whole time, excitedly brought the camera over to show me a picture: "Do you want to see the baby?" "NO!" I yelled. At that moment, I didn't want anything to do with him. I was so angry at him for everything he put me through. Those 10 minutes of irrational baby-rejection gave me so much guilt in the months following his birth. But at the time, everything was backward and crazy. I was no exception.

What seemed an eternity later, I was wheeled to the recovery room. I was exhausted... and still shaking. It was impossible for me to hold my baby. I dozed in the recovery room as my mom, dad, sister, mother-in-law, and husband passed the baby back and forth to each other. I groggily heard someone ask about me: "how's she doing?" "She's sleeping," my husband said. In reality, I was laying in bed, numb literally and emotionally, going over everything that had just happened in my mind. How did this happen? What did I do wrong?

My monitors kept alarming, but I was by myself in the room. Where was the nurse? I began hyperventilating, which caused the alarms to sound even louder. I felt so alone. So abandoned. Everyone wanted to see the baby. It wasn't about me. My bitterness toward the baby escalated.

Finally, the baby nurse (one of the nurses I work with) came in to the room and said that if I wanted to nurse the baby, now was the time. I almost started crying. After all this, I was supposed to feed him, too? The shaking in my arms had finally subsided, and Judah was handed to me. He was crying. This was the first time I got to hold him... he was almost 2 hours old. I remember thinking that his nose was too big for his face, but his eyes were incredibly beautiful. His mouth pulled back a little bit as he cried, and I could see that he had dimples. DIMPLES! He was so handsome. My bitterness slowly began to fade as I instinctively put him to my breast and he immediately latched on. I wept. Isaac was standing by my side.

Less than 10 minutes later, the nurse came in and said she had to take him to the nursery because his blood glucose was low. As a neonatal nurse, I totally expected that to be the case. Judah was 9 lb 6 oz afterall!

Then, I was alone again. I missed my baby. For the first time in 9 months, he wasn't with me. My nurse suddenly reappeared and gave me a quick sponge bath. I could finally wiggle my toes. The numbness had been, ironically, very painful. I felt completely paralyzed from the belly down for almost 3 hours after the surgery, and I remember that for two hours, I had just stared at my toes, willing them to move. They couldn't. It was such a weird experience. This had been the worst day of my life. I had lost control of everything-- even my toes.

I was wheeled to my postpartum room at about 4:30am. We stopped by the nursery first. Judah was still on the warmer. He was the biggest baby in the nursery. But he was my baby. He was beautiful. I loved him. It was so surreal.

The floor nurses hadn't mentioned to me anything about pain meds. I just assumed that they would be on a schedule at first and they would just give them to me when I was due. I didn't know that I had to request them. Consequently, the next 12 hours went by and I didn't have anything for pain. Once my epidural wore off, I tried to sit up in bed to nurse Judah and I literally screamed out in pain. Pain from my incision, but also tremendous pain in my shoulders from pulling that stupid sheet while pushing. My entire body ached; I felt like I had been hit by a car. A very apologetic nurse came in and gave me some medicine and told me that I had to request my pain control. I did just that... every 4 hours I rang the call light for my percocet. There was NO WAY I wanted to feel that again.

I got no sleep in the hospital. I was totally in love with my baby. I foolishly kept him in the room most of the time. He was a hungry baby, and my milk didn't come in until he was 4 days old. I nursed him every 2 hours around the clock. I was so exhausted. By day 3, I started to melt down. I called my mom and told her that I didn't want any visitors at all that day. I needed to just rest. By the time we were finally discharged Saturday evening at about 4:30 pm (I was admitted that Monday at 2pm), I was literally an emotional wreck. I cried almost the entire night. I called my pastor's wife and asked her to pray over me. I didn't know what else to do. I was so overwhelmed with emotional and physical hurt.

I struggled with that emotional pain for a solid three months after Judah's arrival. I would have dizzy spells and severe pain in my incision site off and on for 8 weeks. I could barely get out of bed by myself. I had nightmares.

One night, when Judah was two months old, I dreamed that I took a piece of glass and sliced open my own belly. I woke up completely terrified-- more afraid than I had ever felt in my life. I remember lying there in bed awake, but feeling unable to move or speak. I felt such an intense heaviness. I know that this was a demonic attack. After a few minutes of silently praying to myself, I was finally able to speak and I called out to Isaac. It was about 3am. He woke up, sensitive to the trembling in my voice, and knew that something was deeply wrong. I just said "pray for me!" and all of a sudden my husband started praying in tongues over me. I had never before heard him pray in tongues. Instead of being afraid or uncomfortable with it, it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. It gave me such peace and comfort. I just started weeping. I told Isaac about the dream and the incredible fear that had crippled me and he stayed up with me the rest of the night, praying over me. I finally had freedom from the nightmares after that night.

Another time, a few weeks later, I remember getting frustrated with my appearance when I was getting dressed in the morning. None of my clothes fit right and almost everything I owned had spit-up stains on it. I was a mess. I became so upset that I literally threw myself on the bathroom floor, started screaming, and banging the floor with my fists. Isaac just stared at me, unsure of what to do. I couldn't stop. I had no control over myself.

I know that what I experienced was way more than just "baby blues". I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression... but there was definitely something wrong with me for those first three months. I praise the Lord that he rescued me from that incredible depth, that darkness. It was so difficult.

Even now, I'm occasionally overcome with weeping when I reflect on Judah's birth. It was so difficult to completely lose control... To have my baby surgically cut from my body, when I was so close to delivering him on my own. To irrationally feel like a failure as a mother, a wife... as a woman.

I never want to experience that again.

So anyway... here we are, 28 weeks pregnant with baby girl. I finally met with an actual doctor at my OB practice (I had only seen nurse practitioners up until now) and she seemed almost annoyed when I even mentioned wanting to VBAC (have a vaginal birth after a cesarean). I felt like she was pushing me to just schedule a C/S (even though I know from nursing and medical journals that VBACs are considered safer than elective c-sections). She mentioned a bunch of scary statistics ("your risk of uterine rupture is 6%!" which is not true-- everywhere I've read in the medical literature, my risk of uterine rupture if I attempt VBAC is less than 1%. So I don't know where she got that info!) and said "well, your son was 2 lbs larger than an average baby which is hard for anyone to deliver... you'll have greater peace of mind and it will be less traumatizing if we just schedule a C-Section. But, if you want, we'll wait to officially schedule you until we scan you at 37 weeks and see how big this baby is... then we'll schedule your surgery for May 28th."

How does she know what will be less traumatizing? Every time I read about a successful VBAC, the woman exclaims that she felt so empowered and found emotional healing. I want that! I don't want another major surgery that will leave me unable to hold my two children for weeks. How can I take care of two kids by myself (Isaac can't take much time off of work... a couple days at most) if I can barely get out of bed? Even my friend that wound up with a second emergency C/S after trying to VBAC said that she has no regrets that she at least tried. Also, we're thinking of having more than two children. Once a woman has two or more C-Sections, it is much more difficult (almost impossible in this area) to find a doctor willing to let you have a trial of labor.

So... since I am not going to find true support through my current OB group, I decided to switch to the Nurse Midwifery Associates. I saw them for the first half of my pregnancy with Judah and just loved them. As a student, I attended many of their deliveries. I know that they will give me the flexibility, the patience, and the support that I need to have the best possible chance of a happy delivery! :)

And I know that whatever happens, God will never leave me or forsake me. He goes before me and beside me. He knows my pain and my hurt. And he is faithful to turn our mourning into gladness. I have the most amazing 19 month old boy. I love him with everything in me, more than I knew was physically possible. I am so blessed. And, yes, he was worth it all. Praise Jesus!

my glorious hospital VBAC birth story

My daughter's birth story begins two years ago when my son was born. Big brother, Judah, arrived in 8/08 via emergency C-Section after a grueling pitocin induction and three hours of pushing. I struggled for a long time emotionally with what had happened. See Judah's birth story for more details.

So when I first became pregnant with Galilee, I prayed a lot about whether to pursue a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean). I knew deep down that I really wanted it, and research shows that in most cases, it is a much safer option for both mom and baby. 60 to 80% of women who attempt VBAC are successful. However, very few women attempt it. Nationally, only 9% of women who have had previous c-sections actually go on to have a VBAC.

I would soon discover why this is the case: I had to fight every step of the way for my chance for a trial of labor! Even my co-workers (who are all neonatal or labor and delivery nurses) were against it. Many people cautioned: "just don't do anything that could harm the baby!" (What a silly thing to say to a mom... of course I wouldn't!). A lot of well-meaning friends were worried about how I would react to another emergency C/S if I did have a trial of labor that didn't end well. When I finally met with an actual physician at my OB practice and discussed the possibility of VBAC, she completely blew me off, using fear tactics and incorrect statistics to steer me toward a "controlled and relaxing" repeat c-section. I was disgusted with how she responded and promptly decided to leave that group in search of more supportive care givers. I was already 28 weeks pregnant, but it wound up being one of the best decisions I ever made!

I spent a lot of time on the internet researching VBACs and the risks and benefits, and while uterine rupture is a serious risk for VBAC moms with potentially deadly consequences, the risk is less than 1%. This is the same percentage of risk for uterine rupture for first time moms undergoing a standard pitocin induction, which happens EVERY DAY. I simply don't understand why there is so much controversy surrounding VBAC. Vaginal delivery is a natural process; if a woman can avoid undergoing unnecessary major surgery, then she should be able to!  [ETA 5/17/2017: risk of UR in unscarred induced uteri is 2.2 in 10,000 vs 64 per 10,000 in scarred induced uteri per]

I knew I had to go to a midwife. I contacted several people online who had posted VBAC birth stories from around Buffalo and asked for their care-giver recommendations. Many people suggested I go to the Nurse Midwifery Associates of WNY. This was such a confirmation to me- I had already been thinking of calling them. I saw them for the first half of my first pregnancy, and they were phenomenal.

My first visit with them was fantastic. All three of the midwives saw me and gave me huge hugs and asked how I was doing. It felt like a family reunion. We were off to a great start! I immediately felt at ease and at peace. I completely trusted these women.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I had to go in for a "VBAC- consult" with a physician, since the midwives were not allowed to go over the consents with me. I think it is ridiculous, by the way, that VBACs need physician-obtained consents, but elective repeat cesareans do not! I was scheduled for an appointment at the Children's Hospital Women's Clinic, but since Sisters Hospital medical records had never faxed over my OR Report from my C/S, they couldn't do the appointment. I had waited for 2 hours in the waiting room while they tried to get Sisters to re-fax the report. Nothing. I went back the following week and waited another hour, before finally getting seen by a resident for 5 minutes. She basically told me everything I already knew and told me that because I was a VBAC, I would be monitored very closely, and that anyone at any point could call a C/S during my labor. This was not a comforting thing to hear! But after all I had been through, I was committed to my VBAC.

My due date came and went. At my next midwife appointment (40 weeks and 2 days), I was told that the hospital had recently had a case of uterine rupture in a VBAC mom who was induced with pitocin. (SCARY!). Because of this, the policy had now changed, and "overdue" moms who had had previous cesareans could not be induced. The midwives, after conferring together and with me, decided that we would wait one more week to see if I would spontaneously go into labor, and if I didn't, I would have a repeat c-section. The surgery was scheduled for Monday, June 14th, at 9am.

I had a 41 week sonogram scheduled for Friday afternoon. The baby looked great, but was measuring very large! They estimated that she was 10 lb 5 oz!!!!!

By Friday night (6/11), I was starting to get very anxious about going into labor. Physically, I felt great. I loved being pregnant and could go another week easily if I had to. But, knowing that I had a "deadline" made me very nervous. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would start my labor. I called the midwives and left a message, tearfully requesting that they give me more time. I was desperate. I did not want another c-section!

But then- praise the Lord!- I started having regular contractions on Saturday afternoon at 2:45 pm (one week "overdue"). My mom came to pick up Judah at about 5. I still wasn't sure if this was "it" or not, since I had had several periods of regular "pressure waves" lasting several hours all week. They were lasting about a minute and were 2-3 minutes apart. They just continued on in the same pattern, but increasing with intensity over the next few hours. By 8:45 pm, I was positive that this was labor. Isaac was busy cleaning up the house and packing up the car, while I tried to cope with the pressure waves.

See part 2 for the rest!

my glorious hospital VBAC birth story, part 2

In the 6 weeks prior to the birth, I began to prepare for labor by using a home-study childbirth education program called Hypnobabies (which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone interested in natural childbirth). It covered all sorts of topics regarding childbirth, including how to write birth plans, how to choose care givers, nutrition, breastfeeding, stages of labor, signs of labor, etc. It is also a program that teaches various self-hypnosis cues and techniques that bring the mother into deep states of relaxation to help them have more comfortable births. Every night, I listened to a different half hour hypnosis recording to practice the techniques, and every day I would listen to a recording of positive pregnancy affirmations. The program was awesome- it retrains moms to look at pregnancy and birth as normal and healthy and to create a "bubble of peace" around them to block out negativity about birth. This was actually extremely helpful in my quest for VBAC. It kept me focused on the positives of natural childbirth.

By 9pm, 6 hours into labor, I began to lose focus and started having a lot of trouble relaxing. I wasn't using my self-hypnosis, and the pressure waves began to overwhelm me. The baby was posterior (facing front- she should be facing my back) and I began to have a lot of pain in my low back and down my hips. I began to cry out and tense my body with each contraction. We decided to call Martha the midwife. She told me very honestly: "Sigrid, once you get to the hospital, I can't bend any rules for you. You will have to be monitored. I don't want you to get here and be disappointed if you're not dilating. I don't want the hospital getting anxious about your VBAC. Jump in the shower and stay in there until the hot water runs out. Stay home as LONG as you can. Call me when you're ready to come in-- I'm only a few minutes from the hospital." I was starting to get nervous about how long I'd be able to last-- the contractions were every two minutes, lasting a minute long.

My husband, Isaac set my birthing ball in the tub and I labored in the shower on the ball with Isaac spraying my low back with hot water. He set up my iPod in the dock and I listened to my hypnobabies birthing day affirmations and refocused my attention on relaxing with each pressure wave. The difference was AMAZING! As long as I could FOCUS my complete attention on relaxing, the pain went away, and all I felt was the pressure. I put my "mental lightswitch" into the "center" position (a hypnobabies technique) and just kept repeating this little script over and over in my head with every pressure wave: "Peace, peace, peace... more and more powerful hypno-anesthesia surrounding my baby with each breath I exhale. Each pressure wave brings me deeper and deeper into relaxation and comfort. With each powerful pressure wave, I dilate twice as open as before. Open, open, open...." The length of time that it took me to say this to myself was exactly the length of each pressure wave. As I said these words in my head, I pictured myself painting on a cool blue paint of anesthesia over my uterus. It's incredible: the mind-body connection! It REALLY helped! I'm convinced that I would not have been able to cope if I hadn't been using these self-hypnosis techniques!

I stayed in the shower for over two hours. By about 11:30, the hot water ran out (I'm SO GRATEFUL to God that the water stayed warm as long as it did!). I got out of the shower and- PRAISE GOD!!!!- I felt the baby turn around from posterior to anterior!!!! This was very uncomfortable for me, but a huge blessing. One of the major reasons why Judah was a c-section, was because he was posterior and his head couldn't fit well through my bones. I was so nervous about having a hard time birthing Lilee because of position, but she rotated!!!

I spent the next few hours "in the zone" using my hypnobabies cues and techniques, pacing the hall, and just repeating my little birth script over and over in my head. Isaac wanted to help me, but I just really needed to focus all of my attention on relaxing. I was SO GLAD to be in my own home with no distractions.

I tried to lay down to rest, but laying down on my side was the most uncomfortable position during contractions. I really had to stand and sway my hips or walk up and down the hall.

FINALLY, at almost 3am, I told Isaac- "let's go to the hospital". I was absolutely exhausted and I was desperate to find out how much progress I had made. I had been in labor for 12 hours already. We called Martha and she told us she would meet us at the hospital. Looking back, I think I was probably in "transformation" (transition) at this point.

It was raining outside. Isaac loaded the car with all our bags and then helped me walk out. I had to stop and just stand in the rain during each pressure wave. It was a very peaceful night. The rain was refreshing. The drive to the hospital was less than 5 minutes, but then we didn't know where to park! Isaac just left the car by the ER entrance and helped me walk in the doors. A nurse saw us and asked if I needed a wheelchair. I nodded my head. I felt like such a zombie. I was totally exhausted and so relaxed and quiet. I wondered if people could even tell if I was in labor.

We got to Labor and Delivery and Isaac gave our pre-registration forms to the desk. They wheeled us to a birthing room and they hooked me up to a monitor, asked me to give a urine sample, and started my hep trap. The nurse asked questions about the labor and I answered very calmly between contractions. She seemed very surprised that they were so close together. I just put my head down and stopped talking when I would get one. Martha arrived about 20 minutes later and at about 4am, she checked me. "Sigrid!" she exclaimed. "There's a HEAD! You're only a rim! You're 9.5 cm!" The nurse looked surprised as well. "You've got the demeanor of a mom who is only 2cm. I thought maybe you were 5cm at the most... but 9.5! Good job!"

I continued to labor on a birthing ball, leaning over the bed for the next hour. I got up to use the bathroom, and was surprised to feel "pushy". They had me get back in the bed. Martha asked if she could release my bag of waters. I said yes... which surprised me because I had been so adamant about not having artificial rupture of membranes as I had been preparing my birth plan. I just completely trusted Martha (who has literally attended thousands of births-- she stopped counting ten years ago when she hit 2,000). We were both extremely relieved and surprised that the amniotic fluid was clear! We both for sure thought that a big overdue baby would have had meconium in the water (which can cause respiratory problems at birth). Once Martha saw that it was clear, she seemed much more relaxed and told me that I could just take my time and push my baby out. It was SUCH a relief to have my water broken. Ironically, there was just about as much fluid as I had with Judah- and he was induced for LOW fluid levels, and Lilee was monitored extra carefully this pregnancy for HIGH fluid levels! Just goes to show that sonography isn't an exact science!

I began pushing at about 5am. It felt SO GOOD. It was amazing the difference between natural childbirth pushing and epidural pushing. With Judah, I pushed for three hours, but couldn't feel my contractions, couldn't feel any progress, and really didn't know what I was doing. With Lilee-- I could feel everything, but in a good way. I knew exactly how far down she was, and it really wasn't at all painful-- it was relieving. I was just shocked with the sheer POWER of my pushing. I began making all sorts of loud and crazy noises- not out of pain, but from the power of it all! We were playing the Hypnobabies Pushing Baby Out track, which seemed to bring a relaxing atmosphere into the room, but my body just took over and I felt like I HAD to "purple push," instead of breathing her down. My body was working so powerfully; it felt very raw and primal. Martha was very encouraging during this time and guided me through my pushing efforts while making me feel like I was still in control. Ironically, I was sitting on the bed in a semi-lithotomy position--exactly the position I thought I wanted to avoid, but now, it felt the most comfortable.

I began to feel the baby crowing. I got very distracted by these strange new sensations, and began to lose focus on my relaxation. The burning feeling was very intense, and Isaac told me later that this was the only time during the labor that I said "this hurts!" Martha was very patient with me and used a lot of oil and massage to help stretch me. I remember hearing Isaac say "wow" to himself as he watched his daughter's head come into view, and this gave me a lot of hope and joy. Martha invited me to reach down and feel my baby as she was crowing, but I felt like I couldn't move my body at all or I would lose control and not be able to cope with the intensity of it all!

Isaac said that it was amazing to watch the birth. He commented, though, that he was skeptical that it would actually happen until Lilee's head was out! We had been to this point before-- Judah's head was visible before the C/S was called. I admit that I was also a little skeptical. When Martha said that her head was out, I didn't believe her! I don't think I believed that it was actually happening until the baby was in my arms! A few pushes later and I felt a slight "pop" as her body slid out.

At 5:48am, Galilee June was born. I will never ever forget the incredible feeling of holding my slimy naked newborn on my belly immediately after birth. "We did it, baby!!! I love you so much!!! You did such a good job! You helped Mama so much! We did it!" I just kept telling this precious little pink and crying baby in my arms. All the hurt and disappointment and frustration from Judah's birth was completely erased in that moment. I appreciated this so much more because of my past experience. I felt completely new and fresh and liberated... like a "real woman." I felt SO GOOD!!!

Isaac cut the cord and I just kept kissing Lilee's forehead. She was so soft and beautiful.

"I love you Martha!" I exclaimed. "I love you, too, Isaac!" "I love you, Shawna!" I said to the nurse. I was just so OVERWHELMED with emotion. I began to sing "Praise the name of Jesus! Praise the name of Jesus! He's my rock! He's my fortress, he's my deliverer, in him shall I trust! Praise the name of Jesus."

Lilee was 9 lb 7.8 oz and 20" long. Her head was perfect- no moulding, bruising, or swelling! Martha commented that she came down absolutely in perfect position- another huge answer to prayer! For a 9 1/2 pound baby, I only tore a tiny bit... Martha commented that she was sorry I even got that much, and that it wasn't Lilee's head that did any damage- it was her huge belly! Shawna, the nurse, told me that my birth was textbook- it was like watching the video on natural childbirth. The way the baby came down slowly and gently was exactly how it was supposed to be. My body works just fine, thank you very much! I wanted to shout "haha, I told you so!" to my OB-GYN who said that I probably couldn't push out a "larger than average" baby and wanted me to have a repeat cesarean.

I feel so blessed to have had such a fabulous midwife and nurse with me at the birth. The entire time I was at the hospital, things felt very peaceful (except for when we first walked in and heard lots of loud screaming from the other birthing rooms!). There was only Isaac, myself, Martha, my nurse, and the baby nurse (who is actually a friend of mine!) at the delivery, and the lights were dim and everyone spoke in soft voices. At one point, Martha actually shooed a medical student who came in to watch the birth out of the room! What a difference from my first labor- then it seemed like there were a dozen people in the room yelling at me to "PUSH!" before I was whisked off to the OR for my C/S. This time around, things were so much more personal and intimate. It was beautiful.

I tried nursing Lilee, but she was having a bit of a hard time with her respirations- grunting, flaring, retracting. They had to take her up to the nursery a little bit early to monitor her better. She wound up in the nursery for the next 31 hours before they could bring her out to my room. Luckily, I was able to go and nurse her and cuddle her every few hours in a little private room near the nursery with her on pulse oximetry. It was a blessing in disguise-- Isaac and I were able to rest in between feedings. I know I would never have been able to send her back to the nursery between feeds if I had a choice! Lilee's respiratory problems resolved, and she is totally healthy now. And, through it all, the Lord gave me such a peace about her health- I wasn't at all worried; I knew she would be ok.

Recovery wasn't so fun (My upper body was very sore from tensing while pushing, and I was just physically exhausted from labor. My hormones were crazy too, causing me to be freezing cold and shivering one hour, and sweating and boiling hot the next), but I felt a thousand times better emotionally than I did with Judah. I felt so grateful and so satisfied. I was soaring! A week later, and I'm still so super charged on this emotional high! When I think about how blessed I am to have had such an incredible birth experience and to finally be healed from the emotional scars from my c-section, I just feel like dancing and singing!

The Lord answers prayers. He was merciful to me and gave me the desire of my heart. I was able to birth my daughter completely naturally! With Judah, I had pretty much every single intervention imaginable (cervidil, pitocin, constant fetal monitoring, epidural, cesarean...). What a completely different experience! And she came at the right time- I had a c-section scheduled for the next morning!!!

We've been having so much fun at home as a family of four. Judah is a fabulous brother and loves his sister so much. He kisses her, pets her, and talks to her, calling her "Gadeedee." She is absolutely adorable and I still can't believe that I'm lucky enough to be her mom! Isaac and I feel incredibly close, now, too. Going through such an intense and personal experience like natural childbirth together really deepens a relationship! I love him so much, and I'm grateful for all his support throughout my VBAC journey!

The Lord is faithful!


A conversation with a friend last night led me to consider my first minutes of motherhood: My son was born through an incision in my abdomen. I didn't hear any crying (there was meconium in his amni otic fluid, so he was immediately taken to the radiant warmer and the neonatologist intubated and suctioned his throat). Instead of crying, I heard gasps: "WOW, what a BIG baby!" "Sigrid- you birthed a toddler!" The room was bright and sterile. I felt like I couldn't breathe because the anesthesiologist was too busy playing on his iPhone to realize that the oxygen mask was clamped too tightly and pinched my nose shut. My arms were shaking violently and I was hyperventilating. I couldn't see a thing- the blue surgical curtain was blocking my view of my baby. I felt very distant and removed. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity- I heard a loud lusty cry from my son. A nurse showed me a card with his footprint on it- the first visual proof of my baby. My husband asked if I wanted to see a picture of him on the camera. No. I was too broken in that moment- too upset. It was nearly two hours after his birth that I finally got to hold him. I was the 9th person to do so. I am quiet and subdued.

the first time I get to see Judah! on the OR table getting put back together.

In recovery... unable to move or feel my legs. Can't sit up... arms are still shaking and I am physically unable to hold my newborn son.

I'm a mess.

22 months later:
Lilee is born after a completely spontaneous and natural labor. The room is dim, quiet, and relaxing. My midwife catches her and immediately places her on my belly. The feel of her wet skin is something I will never forget. She is crying loudly and is soft and pink. I am overwhelmed with joy and start proclaiming my love for everyone in the room. My baby never leaves my arms. I just cradle and kiss her over and over as Daddy gets to cut the cord. I am the first person to hold her. I am so alive and in the moment, proud of our achievement. I start talking a mile a minute- I'm just so excited. Everything is right in the world and life is beautiful. I am amazed at the beauty of God's design.

seconds after birth!

Daddy cuts the cord as I hold my baby.

My awesome midwife. I feel great!

Someone once told me "it doesn't so much matter what kind of birth you have-- the babe's the thing!" And, yes, I totally agree with that last part. If I get too caught up in the birth story, I miss out on the point-- the Babe Is The Thing! However... the birth does matter. It matters a lot. For me, my cesarean led to months of physical and emotional pain. Feeling robbed and violated. My VBAC led to feeling reborn and victorious. I praise God for both experiences and know that both are integral parts to my story. I just get so angry, though, when the medical community forgets how much birth does matter to a woman and just pushes her through the system and she gets lost in the shuffle. I see it every day at work. It makes me so sad.

Birth trauma is a real thing and needs to be acknowledged. My dream is for surgical birth rates to plummet and for more and more women to come out feeling victorious and powerful. We are the crown of creation. We were designed to be strong and powerful. God's way is always best. My prayer is that the medical establishment can respect that and stop living in fear of law suits and start honoring women and their ability to birth. Until then... I will purpose to listen to my patients' stories, help shoulder their burdens, and share in their joy. I will encourage and lift up and offer hope. Birth is beautiful. And the babies we birth are beautiful. And it all matters.