Thank's for sharing your story Carey!
Big Ben was born on Thursday August 2, 2007 at National Naval Medical Center. That is not how we planned it to happen, but babies have an agenda of their own and the mother has to go along with that.
Early labor started on Tuesday evening about 10 p.m. I had experienced labor before so I knew that I had a long way to go so I went to sleep until about 4 a.m. when contractions started to pick up. I called my midwife, Karen Carr, at 5 a.m. when my contractions were around 5-6 minutes apart. She called her birth assistant, Nicole who showed up about half an hour later. She checked my progress and I was 50% effaced, 3 cm dilated at a zero station. She told me to try to get some rest and to call her when I needed her to come back. Around 8 a.m. contractions picked up more so I called my doula, Kat. Both she and Nicole arrived between 8-9 a.m. and we sat around chatting while I crocheted Ben’s baby blanket. I was having a wonderful time with my friends and enjoyed the conversation. My mom took two year old Eve to the park to give me a little time to relax and my husband time to set up the labor pool in the living room. Labor was progressing very slowly and by the noon, Kat had me walking the hallways in my building. During contractions, she would press a warm, lavender scented rice sock on my lower back that felt wonderful. I also used the sock on my lower abdomen while we walked. The walking really seemed to intensify and speed up the contractions, but they were still very manageable. I sat on the birth ball and circled my hips too, which was a comfortable position. Nicole checked my progress and this time I was 80% effaced, 4-5 cm dilated at a zero station. Kat suggested that my husband and I spend some time alone together, which was a great idea. We talked, kissed, danced, and enjoyed each other’s company and before long labor picked up again. He did a fantastic job supporting and coaching me and would rub my back through contractions while I stood with my hands on the wall above my head. We spent about two hours doing this before Kat, Karen, and Nicole showed up together in the early evening. Thomas needed a little break so I took my birthing ball with me into my closet for some quiet time. I was able to relax and concentrate only on my contractions and it made me understand how helpful meditation or yoga can be during labor. From time to time, someone would walk into my closet to check on me and see that I was doing fine. Everyone seemed pleased with the progress, and I knew the baby would be born that evening.
Karen and I decided to check my progress and sure enough I was about 7-8 cm dilated, but the baby was still a little high. She said the baby’s head was slightly to one side so I should do some exercises to open my pelvis so the baby’s could move down. We set up a chair while I did placed one foot on the chair and did a squat 10 times before switching feet. We did this exercise for an hour or two and seemed to move the baby to a better position. I tried the exercise ball again at this point, but the labor was still not moving forward as it should. There was a bag of water and a cervical lip preventing the baby from dropping further in to my pelvis. Karen decided to break the bag of water that was in front of the baby’s head and as soon as she did, contractions started getting a lot more intense. The feeling during this time was of helplessness, with contractions on top of each other. All you can do is try to get through each contraction. Your body is working so hard and breathing and letting your body relax are about the only things you can do. I tried every position that was suggested by Kat, Nicole, and Karen and found the best were sitting on the toilet and standing in my bedroom with my hands on the wall above my head. I couldn’t get on my hands and knees or squat while holding on to anything. Kat, Nicole, and Thomas took turns supporting me and applying pressure to my hips from both sides. It was a tremendous relief to have them push on my hips and I know they were all exhausted from the work. After some time in this phase, Karen decided to check on the cervical lip again and it was still present, but I was 100% effaced, but my cervix was swelling a little bit and I was experiencing some intense back pain. Everyone was so encouraging telling me that the back pain was normal and it was because the baby was moving down. Karen suggested I get into the labor pool to try to relax a little. It was such a relief that my contractions slowed down. I would fall asleep after a contraction and wake up at the peak of the next grasping for Thomas’ arm. The girls brought in the birthing stool, but there was too much pain in my back to sit on it and I still didn’t feel like pushing. After about an hour and a half I got myself out of the tub to get checked again. I was still not fully dilated and the cervical lip was still there but the baby had moved down some. It was encouraging and frustrating at the same time. I tried taking a shower and squatting on the toilet, but the back pain was taking over and I was reaching a point of total exhaustion. When Karen said there were some heart decelerations I started to worry a little and we decided that I should go in to the hospital. Nicole drove Thomas and I in and we arrived about 4 a.m. to the Emergency Room at NNMC.
The drive was long and Thomas rubbed my shoulders while Nicole gave a pep talk. The doctor checked my progress in the ER and I was fully dilated and the cervical lip had disappeared. They kept telling me I was ready to push, but I could hardly talk or think, let alone push. They got me to a room and after much discussion with my doula, we decided to try a local shot to relieve some of the pain in my lower back. They had me pushing on my back for an hour with three pushes during every contraction and then they brought in the squat bar and I pushed for another hour making very little progress. I could see the concern on everyone’s face. The doctor and I decided that I could receive a two-hour spinal and after an hour of rest I would begin pushing again. Nicole was very hesitant, but knew that I something had to be done. She told me that if I received the spinal that I had to wake up and push the baby out. After I received the shot, Nicole and I fell asleep while Thomas went to get some coffee. Thirty minutes later I woke up and could feel the pressure of the contractions again and felt like pushing. Nicole, Thomas, and the nurse helped me sit upright in my bed. The first hour of pushing I didn’t feel much pain, and was making slightly better progress. When the spinal wore off, the backpressure returned and that is when things actually started happening. The next hour of pushing was totally different, because I could actually feel the baby moving down and back up with each contraction. Nicole and Thomas were wonderful coaches and kept telling me that each push was moving the baby a little more. The nurse essentially stepped aside during contractions and Nicole coached me through them. When Nicole told me I could touch the baby’s head, everything changed. Just the soft feel of the baby’s head was what I needed for the extra motivation to get the baby into my arms. The feeling of the baby’s head crowning was a very sharp burning pain and when I would say it burned, Nicole would nod and say she knew it did. I felt like screaming but the only way to push was to use a low moan. The OB arrived ready to catch the baby. After three more contractions, the baby’s head was out, but the OB wanted me to push between the next contractions because the baby’s shoulders were stuck. She used her fingers to pull the baby out under his arms and in no time he was crying on my chest. At that point I was so relieved and totally exhausted that Thomas took the baby to get weighed and measured. Nicole brought me crackers with peanut butter, Jell-O, cereal, and juice and my lovely husband brought me a mirror. I had no idea, but my eyes were almost swollen shut and both my eyes were totally bloodshot from all the pushing. I looked scary, but it made everyone in the room laugh out loud. My husband told me later on that had Nicole not been in the delivery room, we would have ended up with another cesarean.
Benaiah Maxwell was born at 7:50 a.m. and was 9 pounds, 1 ounce and 21 1/2 inches long.
Looking back, I realize that I had some issues that weren’t fully resolved from my previous birth experience that ended in a cesarean. I knew I had to surround myself with people that fully believed in VBAC. My doula could not have been more perfect having had a HBAC herself and knowing what an empowering experience that is. My midwife had a VBAC as well and never gave me any doubts as to whether a VBAC was right for me. My labor stalled at the same point as the first birth, but all it took was the love and support of those around me to move past it. Although I had planned a home birth, I am extremely pleased with how things turned out. The 40-minute car ride to the hospital gave me time to clear my head of the frustrations that were present and allowed my body to open up in order to give birth. It takes absolute concentration to push and because I was so exhausted, there was no way my body was going to cooperate without getting a little rest first. All it took was a 30-minute nap before I could push my baby out. There is no way I could have had a VBAC without laboring at home for so long, and there is no way I could have gone through such a long labor without the loving and steady support of Thomas, Kat, Nicole, and Karen.