After giving birth to five children, without complications, I found out later what my true power was. That was the power to choose how to give birth to my sixth child..
As a healthy 38 year old female of African decent, I was also deemed by todays’ medical industry standards as “high risk”. It was all this and my last birth experience that acted as a rudder that drove my research and actions to power my decision making for this birth.
My last birth was of my baby daughter 3 years ago. I did not have a primary obstetrician. Therefore, my Dr. was basically a stranger to me but had a high number of clientele. By my 35th week he informed me that he planned to schedule me for an induction if I had not gave birth on or before my due date. Once I did not give birth by that date, I went in for the induction procedure. Once the hormone (Pitocin) was administered, I still did not go into active labor. After twenty (20) hours, I did not dilated past 2 cm. I was told I “failed to progress” and was coerced into another procedure - a cesarean section.
With this latest pregnancy, I did not want to relive that experience again. I started looking into my options. First, I was offered to go back to the same Dr. I had used for my previous birth. I opted out. Not sure what my plan would be, I searched the internet for ideas on how to ensure that this would be a vaginal birth. I was online one day and saw a beautifully made video on homebirth. It opened up my mind to so many possibilities.
I decided that homebirth may be a good option for me. I researched on the subject and how hospital C-section rates are climbing in the U.S. and how it was intended to be a procedure given when there are serious medical issues that threaten the health of the unborn and/or the mother. There was information that I would most likely be asked to have another C-section. By this, I was angered. I recalled my elongated and painful healing process and my lack of enough core strength to hold my newborn three (3) years prior. Me and my husband decided we were going to do a homebirth and transition to the hospital if/when necessary. I could not afford a midwife. None of them in my area could accept my insurance. I purchased supplies, a midwifery kit and birth pool. I was glad to know I had options.
I went the entire 40 week term. I went to only a few prenatal visits, received an ultrasound, and ate a balanced diet while taking prenatal vitamins and an additional iron supplement. Once my due date passed I grew anxious and unsure about our plan. We were not prepared for pain.
Two (2) days after my due date I began to experience pre-labor pains. They were painful contractions and a tight squeezing and bearing down in my pelvis that was more intense than Braxton-Hicks. This went on for two (2) more days! I could not sleep throughout the night (neither my husband). The timing was between 20 minutes to an hour apart. Very concerned, I went in for a prenatal visit. The NP did a procedure called “stripping the membranes” which was painful but welcomed. I wanted more than anything to get into labor. When at home I took some measures on my own such as laying or sleeping only on an incline or “mountain of pillows” to keep pressure down on my uterus. I breathed through each contraction and that was very helpful. The contractions kept coming! They were so strong, I would be awakened by them when I tried to sleep. Honestly, my dream homebirth was turning into more than I was prepared for. I tried not to lose focus.
After five (5) days of pre-labor contractions and sleep deprivation, my light shone at the end of the tunnel. It was a Friday night, I was attempting to sleep and was awakened by a hard “pop”sensation in my vagina , water came gushing down. I was ecstatic!! However, I was in even more pain now. My husband made my bath water and had to pick me up and put me in the pool. I instantly felt better. The contractions were manageable, especially since I was feeling them for days before this. The contractions got closer and closer and grew more strength. No preparation for the pain would change my birth plans altogether. I felt parts of my baby’s body twisting and dropping deeper into the canal and the pain overpowered me. I told my husband to take me to the hospital!
By this point, standing up on my own was impossible. Me and my husband managed to get into the car and made it safely to the hospital. I was feeling brave and very optimistic; however, I know we were losing the complete control we desired. We knew we had to compromise. The labor continued throughout the night. I was given a morphine drip and the edge was taking off a bit. By the morning, the intensity and feeling of pressure was overcoming my entire lower perineum and was more than I could “breath” away. I reluctantly asked for an epidural. My anesthesiologist was very experienced and asked that my husband turn away so he did not see the needle entering my back. He allowed me a button access for me to take as much as I needed (this option was new to me). I was calm and slept often.
Approximately ten (10) hours later my nurse informed me that I had opened to 8 cm. I had made it past the 5 cm threshold! We were ready to go!! Although I was not able to stand and squat or sit up, I was so pleased to not undergo a cesarean that I felt empowered to push my child out. After a few fierce pushes, I did it! And successfully without any damage to my perineum. My doctors were patient and helped me usher in her little 8 lb. frame from my birth canal. I felt her ooze out easily and once she was released from my body, I was imbued with a complete sense of relief! I felt like I dodged a bullet. My doctor congratulated me on my VBAC repeatedly. I could have guessed he is a secret advocate for less cesarean births. He was very supportive of my effort.
In hindsight, the choices me and my husband made may have made the difference I needed to ensure the VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section). By us attempting to stay home, I gave my body time to labor properly. I am convinced that every birth is different. I had never before experienced pre-labor like this before. And not for the length of time which was five days after my due date. But this is what my body must have needed to prepare for delivery. Also, I believe that my thinking was a large part of the experience. The calmer I was, the more my body did what it was supposed to do, open and release.