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!