So here I go, the story of my VBAC, not sure if it is finished yet but...
This is a story of two births. It is Fenimore's birth story, but without Khady's birth story, Fenimore's story would have been radically different. I dragged my feet in the writing of this story, Fenimore is 18 months, no longer new born, because this is the story I would have wanted to write for Khady. It wasn't until I read Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, that I began to more fully understand that equal is not necessarily a good thing when raising kids and that beauty can lie in inequality. But to be completely honest, I also had to let go of the feeling that I had let Khady down somehow. If only I had learned more about birth in our culture, if only had had a doula with me, if only they could have given Khady directly to me after the birth, if only I hadn't listened to the doctor who said I would never birth Khady vaginally....
But one day I was awed by the enormous gift Khady had given me. Her love pushed me to defy the rules about how we were supposed to raise kids (letting the kid in bed with you can spoil them, carrying a kid around all the time can spoil them etc. etc.) and I began to question birth itself. And I realized that by not writing this story, I was not fully acknowledging the precious gift I had been given. If I had not had a cesarean, I would never have had a homebirth. I would probably have had two ordinary U.S. hospital births and left it at that. And so I share my story, for Khady and for Fen...
The morning of October 28th I made an extra effort to spend time with Khady. I had a sense that there would be few moments left to devote all of my attention to my first born. Though walking was at this point uncomfortable, hand in hand we covered the 8 blocks to the Halloween celebration at the school where Khady played two days a week. My braxton-hicks contractions were frequent now and gaining in strength. I remember feeling a bit awkward as a particularly strong contraction made my belly stretch taught and shift sharply over to one side. My draping maternity top did a poor job of hiding the fact that my uterus was contracting and at least one mom asked how I was doing. I think I am in labor I revealed, as two and three year old lions, princesses and astronauts milled around. Khady was a bright orange tiger.
We both picked at lunch that afternoon, having stuffed ourselves at the party. While waiting for Matt to come home I played the CD I made for the birth and we danced. The dancing drew my contractions closer together and I hugged Khady tight against my firm belly, round and round. Only the day before I finished compiling my labor CD, a collection of gospel songs that send my spirit soaring with the awareness of how connected we are to God, how much love there is within him and all of us.
We had lasagna for dinner, the third night in a row, my desire for cooking having disappeared a few months back. After dinner, still at the kitchen table, I called my midwife, Karen Carr, and suggested I might be calling again in the middle of the night. We put Khady to bed, I had a glass of wine and a nice hot bath with lavender oil, and went to bed. I wasn't so sure I would sleep through contractions but the wine and bath helped and I wanted to sleep and conserve energy while in early labor. I slept two hours.
Sometime after 11pm the contractions woke me up. An extrovert who remains closely in touch with my community, I spent time emailing friends and talking on the phone with my sister, parents and in-laws. The last email sent at 12:37am to my dear friend Christina read:
"Should expect a baby by morning, Matt and Khady are sleeping and I am trying to decide when to call the midwife. She has already been alerted to expect a call tonight but I want her to get some sleep for the moment. Contractions are 4 minutes apart. Wow!"
I suppose that WOW woke Matt up, or the phone calls. Things were intense. I decided to call Ruthcarol around 1am and ask her to come over. Then I called Karen, and around 1:30am I called Lori. According to Lori I sounded way too up beat to be far along in labor. Lori had to nurse her baby, a VBAC that summer, and would then make the drive from Virginia. Ruthcarol arrived shortly after I called Lori, being only a short drive away.
Somewhere between phone calls I moved from the keyboard to the birth ball and slowly circled my hips with contractions. I asked Matt to put on Krishna Das, a favorite for my yoga practice, but after two minutes, I called for my gospel music, the music that first taught me how to deepen my relationship with the Divine. My water had broken, a pea-soup color, meconium (baby poop) and I felt a twinge of nervousness flow through me. In all my careful and methodical preparations for birth, I had not researched meconium. I moved to the bathroom to labor as the pea-green liquid swirled down into the toilet bowl. I called Karen who reassured me that things were probably fine.
Thirty minutes before I had been debating whether or not to call for support but by the time Ruthcarol arrived I was thanking God for making doulas. Ruthcarol found me in the bathroom. Even now I can see her calm face peaking around the corner as if to judge whether I was ready to be seen in my nervous naked birthing glory. I moved back to the birth ball, this time Ruthcarol's, which was much more comfortable then my own sagging ball. Ruthcarol massaged and applied counter-pressure to my lower back and Matt filled up the birth pool. The house was filled with the sounds of gospel music and scent of lavender. Karen arrived just after 2:30am and I was laboring on my knees in the warm birth pool. Karen's trust of birth was tangible and I sensed a change in the energy of our house. She checked your heart-rate Fenimore, since there had been meconium, and all sounded good. Lori arrived soon after Karen and was greeted by Matt outside. The night continued on, wrapping around me in my yoga room, and intermingling with the scent of the lavender from the clay diffuser. I remember staring at the dancing flame in meditation, and called to alert my support that the candle should remain lit.
Matt stayed by my side, rubbing my arm and hair, Lori, holding my hands, and Ruthcarol massaging my back. Karen was in the kitchen sterilizing her instruments. I remember feeling pushy and Lori running downstairs to talk to Karen, who, though downstairs, knew by the sound of my moaning that I was indeed preparing to push. Karen said to Lori "she can just keep doing what she's doing." And so I did.
At 3:45am I wondered if my pushes were bringing the baby down. They say old fears resurface in your VBAC and despite my regular meditation practice and intense emotional preparation for the birth, surface they did. I pushed for two to three hours with Khady, flat on my back and hooked up the monitor, hold your breath until you are purple pushing. The doctor once again staring at my vagina, sighing, questioning why the midwife "let" me continue to push, said, there is NO movement there. And so the doubts crept in. When Karen said, "Can you feel the baby coming down?," I wailed, "I don't know! Please check me!" Karen checked me and responded to the exam, "There is no way you're not having this baby
vaginally." Ah, such sweet words pronounced by a woman who had also had a VBAC at home and had held the hands of hundreds of birthing moms, many of them VBACers. I remember looking deep into her eyes, feeling her hand on my arm, and knowing deep in my heart that the my baby was only moments away. I sang through and between contractions, pushing with the urge, every other contraction, and then at the very end, even without a contraction. Fenimore's head was born at 4:05am to the song Healing by Richard Smallwood (I LOVE that song, it takes me THERE if you know what I mean, no words to describe...) and at 4:07am, his body slid out into the warm water. I fumbled for a split moment, ecstatic, my hands slipping, and then pulled him to my chest. A good six ounces heavier then Khady, those VBAC babies are always bigger.