The Birth Quilt

A patchwork of birth stories from women of color.

How I had my VBAC

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.

(Re)Birth Day - Story


(Re)Birth Day.


1.


What I believe is that there were things you considered: the long-purported due date, four days in your rear view; the eve of your daddy’s departure; the scent and ripple and warmth that would recede into mere nostalgia when you left the amniotic sac; my apprehensions, both emotional and physical, about labor and delivery; your own distinct and elegant imperative.


You chose to begin your descent at 11, after a small and cozy smattering of family gathered for your father’s reluctant send-off to work in another state. Your great-aunt and uncle had bought him a farewell cake: Thanks for coming, Daddy, it read, in four purple-frosted lines.

Your name was signed, with love.

Your father, grandmother, and I stared at the cake for a moment, like a pretty, mercurial, and unexpected guest at what might already be a landmine-laden party.
Then we all smiled and commented on its flavor: white with confetti-colored buttercream. None of us could quite articulate the longing, regret, and high hope in the room; we were working much harder to sidestep offense, to tiptoe around self-detonators, disguised as semi-light banter.


We spent the evening congregated in your great-aunt and great-uncle’s basement, watching the latter’s retirement gala on a big screen TV. Occasionally, your dad and I exchanged texts, or else complex looks punctuated by the furrowing of brows and sheepish half-smiles.

He was leaving. There was no changing that. And the ten days he spent waiting for you had left him far more invested than I had any notion to expect. He touched the skin outside you often, spoke of love, and whispered you promises. I can’t wait to see you, he sing-songed one day, in a voice I was certain you’d remember as deeply adoring.
In the basement, we sat silently, too aware that this girl we shared, even when every other claim we’d laid to one another had long withered and fallen away, wouldn’t have the benefit of meeting us both on emergence, even after we’d worked so hard to forgive, to suppress, to project a united front.

It exhausted us, and worse, it broke our hearts.

As we tried to summon last-minute things to say, before his flight seven hours later, my body began to press in on you, and suddenly, four days later than predicted, you began the hard work of shuffling off your prenatal coil and entering this side of the world.

As one of the retirement speakers elicited a chuckle from the onscreen crowd, your parents gazed at each other, feeling acutely helpless.

2.

Back home that night, what began as unassuming cramps quickly turned sort of sinister. By 1 am, I was clutching a body pillow and tossing to and fro under the weight of your barreling down.

By 3 am, I was rocking my pelvis toward the four winds, convincing myself the movements were soothing, repeating them till they were.

During trips to the bathroom parallel to my bedroom door, I’d glance out at the living room futon, where your father slept, snoring and fitful, till his flight left.

I knew that, were he able to stay, his hands would’ve rubbed my lower back. He would’ve asked me questions, unrelated to the doubling over, the nausea, the breaking and receding waves of pain. Questions like, “What was the plot of the last good book you read?” Questions like, “Do you think our daughter will have your eyes?”
Even after all the tumult of these long and restless months, a kind of reflexive tenderness exists between us. I’ve been grateful for it, in spite of myself.

By 5 am, when he woke to leave and my mother woke to drive him to the airport, I could barely stand still long enough to say goodbye. We embraced and I retreated into my bedroom to curl on my side and rock myself through the sporadic, intensifying contractions alone.

7 am: They tell you to wait till the contractions are five minutes apart, lasting one or more minutes, for at least an hour, before seeking admission to the labor/delivery ward. Who has time to track contractions, with eyes shut tight against the pain of them?

9 am: Terribly sleepy, but unable to relax my muscles long enough to drift into even the lightest slumber. Gagging. Eyes watering. Trembling.

11 am: Near-constant contractions. Longer than a minute. Gravity seems to be nudging me toward dilation and effacement. But I’m doubting gravity. What if I feel dilated, but it’s all in my mind? A thousand gruesome tales of long labor surge to the fore, and I bite my lip and keep rocking.

11:30 am: That did it. To the hospital, pronto. “Thundercats are gooooo.” (c) Juno.

12:30 pm: A wonderful nurse checks my progress in Triage. “You’re about four centimeters, ninety percent effaced.” Four is the magic centimeter. I’m cleared for an epidural; the anesthesiologist is called. My mother keeps telling me I’m doing a great job. My aunt’s coaching me through my deep breathing. In, hold, out. In, hold, out. Vomit pooled in the lap of a hospital gown. Apologies to the nurses on duty. Fresh gown. Trembling.


1:20 pm: Medicated bliss. But not before a spiking blood pressure read, caused by needle-in-the-back anxiety. Through each procedure, from IV insertion to epidural to dilation-checking, I ask the nurses and doctors to talk me through what they’re about to do. The dulcet tones of the nurse’s voice help me center, as the doctor slides the catheter into my back. I feel nothing, not even a pinch.

Then, within ten minutes: merciful numbness.

Between 2 and 6, I’m encouraged to sleep. Instead, I talk to my visitors: my dad, my mom, my aunt.

I remember very little of what was said.

6:30 pm: The contractions are back. For hours, I’d been hearing about this “pressure to push” I’d feel when it was time for the final stage of labor. What I actually feel is the epidural “wearing off.” I can curl my toes, flex my feet, practically roll to the side without help. And worst: full-blown contractions. The good nurse keeps insisting that if I hit the time-controlled medicine pump, the epidural will re-up. It doesn’t.

After nearly an hour, the nurse says I probably need to push, that perhaps, the contractions were the “pressure.” A resident, a new nurse, and a male med student materialized. The obstetrician swanned in and checked things out.

"Next contraction," one of them said, "you’ll need to push." Push till a count of ten. Repeat twice. By then, the contraction will subside.

The very prospect seemed insurmountable. Wait for a contraction, then push? Madness.
I didn’t yell at all. I didn’t cry. It was nothing like labors dramatized for television or film. I didn’t think of your father accusingly; no “You! You did this to me!”s. I didn’t demand quiet of the room. The room was quiet enough as it was.

Me, calling contractions, as the resident pulls at the perineum, the med student looks woeful and nauseous, and my mother and aunt hold up either leg.

I push for 21 minutes, before you slide from me so fast I barely feel you coming. You went from crowning to full-bodied arrival faster than anyone expected.

My mother called your father on speakerphone, just before you let loose your first holler. It was brief and singular; you saw no need to go on wailing after that first triumphal battle cry. He was grateful to hear it.

Stitches. Staring at the ceiling, still feeling the effects of lidocaine and local anesthetic. Hearing my family coo your praises. Watching a nurse scrub you with a vigor that worried me, while a series of camera flashes flickered around the bathing station. Discussion of elevated blood pressure. Asking for your Apgar score. You were all eights and nines.

When they finally gave me to you, after their 40 minutes of sewing, your hair felt softer than anything I’ve touched, than anything I ever knew existed. You had my lips, my nose. Your legs were remarkably long and muscled.

You were a gem, all mine to treasure.

3.


We named you Story Jean. The first name, my choice; the middle, your father’s. This is a lovely tale for a later day.

Your last name belongs to both of us. Never before has our shared surname been as useful to us as now.

4.

I can barely write; your life has sapped my words.

You consume me. You exhaust me. You enliven me.

"I will never doubt again."

"There will never be a need."
— buttercup & westley

Reposted with permission (and encouragement)

My Birth Story - Khalid 8/2012

Sunday, I was admitted into L&D because of high blood pressure. I was actually on my way to a party with my husband but I just was not feeling well so I told him to stop by L&D so I can check my pressure. Turns out it was very high and I had 3 plus protein in my urine. The Dr was saying that I would need to deliver in 24 hours. I was in SHOCK! That was not apart of my plan but then again God is the ultimate planner right. I was just thinking that after starting to practice hypnobabies, my stretching and breathing, and working out to prepare myself for birth all that would be thrown out the window because I would be having a C-section;in 24 hours. He made this decision because with the high blood pressure I had I was also showing sighs of Preeclampsia. I had blurred vision, vomiting, pain on the right side on my stomach which was my liver swelling up and my body was swelling too. My feet, hands and face felt tighter than the normal pregnancy swelling that morning. I was glad that I know my body and listened to my intuition. Usually I would wait, drink water, maybe eat some raw food and put my foot up. You know, natural yaddi style, lol. But things were just too different this time..

**On a side note, although I kept a level head because in situations you have to keep calm in order to make the best decision. I was a little angry and I know my husband was too.. I think his anger was more of a concern because he and I both try to do thing holistic. He is not a fan of hospitals, especially after seeing “The Business of Being Born” & he knew I wanted a peaceful home birth! 

Ok I am angry about my diagnosis, but that’s my placenta’s fault not the hospitals. I am angry with the hospital because of the cookie cutter way in which they treated the diagnosis of preeclampsia. I know they have to just tell you what the deal is, straight forward no matter how hard. That’s policy but still… Is all they saw was a woman showing signs of preeclampsia who was 30 weeks pregnant. And as far as they were concerned I needed to deliver that baby right then and there, not a week from then, not lets hold out for 3 days but right then to 24 hours. 

They could see no reason to compromise.  No benefit to staying pregnant even a few days longer. 
 In one day I went from planning a peaceful homebirth to OMG YOU HAVE PREECLAMPSIA YOU HAVE TO BE CUT OPEN AND GET THAT BABY OUT NOW!***

Back to the story..

It was all so new to me so I asked him to start with getting my pressure down because I did not plan on a c section nor did I want to rush into anything to fast. (NEVER just allow them hospitals to do as they please, you still need to have some control) So we watched my pressure for 24 hours while they did a 24 hour urine test. The urine tests determines how bad the preeclampsia is. So were waiting on the urine test… I’m in my room by now, in hospital gown, having magnesium pumped into me to slow down my whole system and what it was creating. This was so I would not have any seizures.

I also had an ultrasound that night and the baby was fine, the fluid, measurments, weight etc was perfect. It was just my body wanting to go into seizures because that what would have eventually happened if I didnt make the choice to go. Monday night the urine came back and it had 8000 plus protein, my liver had enflamed and my kidneys were not doing what they were suppose to be doing. Within an hour I was in the operation room bent over a chair about to get an epidural which I am NOT a advocate for. But ofcourse I was about to be cut open I had to get one.  I had no choice but to have a c section. I was only 30 weeks and 5 days along my cervix was nowhere near ready and the baby was not low enough to deliver vaginally. If they induced me it would have been stress on the baby and I more than likely would have ended up with a c-section. 

He was delivered at 8:24pm weighing 2.14lbs and 15 inches on August 27, 2012. We named him Khalid Nasir. Khalid means Eternal and Nasir means Warrior. I’m eternally grateful for my little warrior prince.

I was placed in the high risk unit  for a week and he is in the NICU still. He will be in there until his due date November 1st but if he does well enough he will be home way before that, Inshallah! I think he will be home late September, early October, He’s already hit so many NICU milestones within one week. I’m proud of my baby. 

Now, I have to get back to pumping that Liquid gold, thats the key to a healthy preemie! 

Peace and love! 

"It Takes a Thousand Voices to Tell a Single Story"

Stories have a power all their own.  They can touch hearts, secure bonds and create change just by being shared. That’s why we created The Birth Quilt; we strongly believe that the birth stories told by mothers of color are a rarely heard and even more rarely shared treasure with great power.   We hope that you’ll help us in our quest to collect, archive and share these powerful stories from all over the country.  

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