What do you remember…
In labor words carry so much weight and can motivate us to the highest mountains or drop us to our knees in defeat. What words, phrases, and statements do you remember in your labor?
In labor words carry so much weight and can motivate us to the highest mountains or drop us to our knees in defeat. What words, phrases, and statements do you remember in your labor?
On February 3rd of 2017 I gave birth to my first child, our son Miles, via unplanned cesarean. He weighed 9 lbs 5 oz. I believe his head circumference was in the 97th percentile. During my pregnancy with Miles I received prenatal care from an OB at a large healthcare system. My partner Joe and I trusted her and that particular healthcare system blindly. We never once considered the potential benefits of midwifery or doula care.
Joe and I just figured we would walk into the hospital one day and come out with a baby and everything would be fine and dandy. Well, that definitely wasn’t the case. For one, I violently vomited the entire time. And no one ever explained to me why that was happening. For years I blamed myself for the vomiting because the nurses told me not to eat after I received the epidural….and before the vomiting started I snuck a couple of Cheez-Its…because I was fricking starving. Also, the epidural I received didn’t work the way we expected. Half of my body was numb for most of the time I was in labor. I remember the anesthesiologist giving me options and asking me what I wanted to do about the pain while I was violently vomiting. I really had no idea what plan to agree to because I was so sick, scared and in pain… and I just wanted it all to stop. Long story short, Miles was having a difficult time coming through my vaginal canal. I don’t remember anyone explaining to us what was happening. I basically only remember vomiting….and pain…and chaos. Everything went horribly wrong so fast. Long story short, near the end of the experience I pushed for 4 hours straight and after repeated concerns from hospital staff about my baby’s heartbeat being in distress, I caved in to consistent pressures to have a cesarean. I was devasted that I had to be cut open like that, but I felt like I had to do it or my baby would have died. I remember crying out of fear after telling them something like “Just do it.” I experienced even more confusion and fear during the surgery….violently shaking and not knowing why, arms strapped down, dry heaving….so afraid….so exhausted. And although I had previously dreamt of holding my baby on my chest immediately after his birth, the reality was that I actually refused my first opportunity to hold Miles in that OR room. I was too exhausted…too traumatized from what happened…I just wanted everyone and everything to go away. I hated myself for a long time for not wanting to hold my child at that moment. I still don’t think I have fully forgiven myself for that decision.
Fast forward to May of 2018. We found out we were pregnant again. After Miles’ birth there was a part of me that wanted to look into other providers for future prenatal care but life was crazy as a new mom and I just never made the time to look at other options. So, with another baby already growing inside of me I just decided to stick with the same provider I had for my pregnancy with Miles (an OB at a large healthcare system). I told my OB that I wanted to try for a vaginal birth. I remember she did some type of online VBAC calculator. My chances of success, according to the calculator, were basically 50/50…maybe slightly over fifty percent in favor of VBAC. The calculator results weren’t all that promising but they weren’t horrible so I really didn’t dwell on the number too much. My OB let us know that she would be basing her final recommendations (about whether or not I should do a scheduled cesarean) off of an ultrasound around the 33 week mark. She said if the ultrasound indicated that I was having another “big baby” that she would “discourage” me from TOLAC. I ended up having the ultrasound on December 14th of 2018. Based off of my guess date, I was 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant at that time. The ultrasound indicated that I was going to have another “big baby” with a large head. My OB sat in that patient room with us and told us “If I had to put a G down, I wouldn’t bet on you delivering vaginally successfully.” I was devasted. I asked her to run through the risks of a TOLAC again and she went through all the scary AF things that could happen. She also made sure to tell me, after outlining all the risks of TOLAC, that it was up to me and I could try for a VBAC if that’s what I wanted. So basically, the way we understood it all was that I could rupture my uterus and possibly never have children again or even kill my baby and/or myself in the process of trying to deliver vaginally….but I could do whatever I wanted. Like really? Oh thanks….really?....I can do whatever I want?!! Like who in f*ck is going to raise their hand to volunteer for TOLAC after only getting that side of the story?! Unsurprisingly, before leaving the clinic that day, we had a date scheduled for my repeat cesarean. My OB let us know that I could change my mind about the cesarean so I knew I had a little bit of time to do some serious soul searching about what to do.
After our appointment with the OB, Joe was understandably already sold on the decision to get a repeat cesarean. I don’t blame him for that quick decision. He just wanted me and the baby to be safe and TOLAC was largely presented as unsafe. So, at that point, I was kind of on my own to research VBAC births and speak to people with similar experiences in order to make, what seemed like, an impossible decision.
I wondered why I wanted a VBAC so badly. Was I being selfish for wanting that experience? Was I putting my baby at unnecessary risk? Was I going to die if I went through with it? I ended up posting on a Facebook group for moms. I pleaded for any type of guidance about this impossible decision. I received so much supportive feedback from so many people, most of them complete strangers. My post eventually caught the attention of my friend Alana. Although we weren’t super close friends, we were close enough friends that we had each other’s phone numbers and I had attended her recent baby shower. Alana saw my FB post and reached out to me to tell me about her recent VBAC journey. She told me how she left the same healthcare system that I was using because they weren’t supportive of her desire to have a VBAC and scared her with some of their birthing policies. Alana encouraged me over the phone to switch to a VBAC supportive provider. Although I didn’t come out and say it to her on the phone, I knew there was no f-ing way I was switching providers that late into my pregnancy. It was too scary of a thought. Too overwhelming. She also encouraged me to consider hiring a doula. One of the doulas she mentioned was Liz Hochman. She told me that she took Liz’s VBAC class and that highly recommended we take it too. She also told me that Liz is “the VBAC expert.”
So, on the evening of December 18th, 2018 I sent a long, and probably rambling, email to Liz. I explained my heart wrenching dilemma and how I was yearning to deliver my baby vaginally, despite my OB’s recommendations. Liz got back to me the same night and we had a phone call the next morning. Liz gave me a crash course in evidence-based birth and I quickly realized that my internal hesitation around the need for a repeat cesarean was actually supported by actual research. Like the fact that there is no evidence to support the recommendation of a repeat cesarean solely because one is expecting a “big baby.” Or the fact that the sweet spot for accuracy in ultrasound sizing is around the 11 week mark and that after that 11 week mark, ultrasound inaccuracy increases the further along you are in your pregnancy. So that OB should have never done an ultrasound that late into my pregnancy and she should definitely not have used the results to recommend a repeat cesarean!
Liz gave me more information about the difference between a VBAC supportive provider versus a VBAC tolerant provider. She also told me that whether or not I decided to hire a doula, it was most important for Joe and me to have a VBAC supportive provider. At the beginning of my call with Liz I had told her there was no way I was switching providers so late in my pregnancy. There was just no way. It wasn’t an option. Switching providers was too anxiety-provoking for me. However, to my complete surprise, by the end of our call that morning I couldn’t wait to switch my prenatal care. I called Willow Midwives that same day and I had my first appointment with one of the midwives on December 28th of 2018. After my first appointment with Willow Midwives, I cancelled all my future appointments with my OB, including the scheduled cesarean.
Joe and I also completed the birthED VBAC Prep Class. Our eyes were wide open after taking her workshop! Why hadn’t our OB told us about VBAC success rates? Why hadn’t we learned any of what we learned with Liz when we attended a birth class when I was pregnant with Miles? After her workshop, Joe and I were completely sold on the decision to move forward with a TOLAC. And after meeting Liz I just knew that I had to have her as our doula. She agreed to be our doula and from then on everything was right in the world. With Liz as our doula and Willow Midwives providing our midwifery care, we had a small, but mighty VBAC army. I knew that even if I had to have a cesarean again that I was in some of the best hands. That feeling meant everything to me.
In the end I got my VBAC! Our daughter, Eloise, was born on February 6th, 2019. She was 8lbs 4oz and 20.5 inches long. She came into this world super fast. So fast that even if I had wanted an epidural this time around (which I didn’t) there was no time to get one! Eloise’s birth was so beautiful and so powerful. This time there was no fear. None. I knew the difference between pain and suffering and I trusted my body to do its thing. And holy sh*t my body totally did its thing! It was so amazing to feel my body do what it was supposed to do. I was surrounded by love as well as people who were fully capable of supporting my birth plan. I am forever grateful that Alana connected me to Liz and forever grateful for everything Liz did, including everyone she connected us to during those last weeks of my pregnancy. A special shout must be made to Jenni Meyer from Willow for safely delivering my beautiful baby and taking such great care of me. Oh, and one last shout out to the power of the old wooden birthing stool at Abbott. Nice call Liz! <3
If you or someone you know is birthing after a previous surgical birth and has questions about Twin Cities Providers, Doulas, and Evidenced-based care please CONTACT US and we will be happy to assist you in your informational search.
If you are interested in our birthED VBAC Prep Class you can read more about it HERE.
Congrats to our owner and lead teacher, Liz Hochman, on the honor of being inducted by Lamaze International into the Fellowship of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators.
This honor is bestowed upon professional colleagues that have made significant contributions to the field of childbirth education including promotion of the Lamaze fundamentals of Birth, research, advocacy, media and community leadership efforts. Additionally, individuals with the designation are committed to promoting and maintaining the highest standards in the field of Perinatal Education.
Thank you to our Sleep Guru and birthED Teacher, Becky Bormann, for this great post. We know sleep is at the forefront of your minds - let us help.
With Baby Sleep Training being a multi-million dollar industry (1), it can be overwhelming to decipher what is the “right” way to approach sleep. What new parents realize pretty early on is that the tools needed to help your baby sleep are not a one size fits all method. Each family’s approach to sleep is different; what worked for your sister’s family or your best friend’s children, etc., may or may not match your family values and that is okay!
With so much information coming at you in parenting books and classes, on blogs and in parenting boards online, here are six tips to get you started:
Don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night. Fact of the matter is, Only 16% of babies sleep through the night (defined as 5 consecutive hours) at 6 months of age (2.)
Create a strategy around your health and wellbeing for nighttime parenting. It won’t feel like it in the moment, but you will survive this stage!
Don’t believe the hype around sleep training! Sleep training doesn’t usually work long term (3.)
Don’t put pillows, bumpers, etc. in baby’s crib.
Do create a safe space for nighttime nursing.
Don’t stress if things are different than you imagined or were told.
We’ll dig deeper into these six tips and cover so much more in our Gentle Sleep Education class on January 14th at BirthED. Please join us in preparation to get the best start possible with your baby!
1. Ockwell-Smith, S. (2016, January 17). The epidemic of baby sleep training. Retrieved January 1, 2019, from Sarah Okwell-Smith.
2. Sadler, S. Sleep: what is normal at six months? Prof Care Mother Child. 1994 Aug-Sep; 4(6): 166-7. PubMed PMID: 8680184
3. Hadfield, B. (2013). Sleep: A Brief History. Retrieved January 1, 2019, from Dream With Me.
Thank you to guest author, Kelsie Zellar for this exciting birth story!
It was probably about half-way through my pregnancy that I started reading more, learning more, and asking questions. I have a friend that (at the time) had had both a hospital birth and an unmedicated waterbirth, and was in the midst of planning either a home or center birth for her third child. I frequently found myself going to her and asking what she knew or recommended or had experienced. She played a major role in some of my decision making – not because she wanted me to follow her ways, but because she wanted me to be informed.
Fast forward to our birth education classes. We decided to try birthED’s Breastfeeding and Newborn Care class (all because I randomly saw a sign for it posted at Baby Grand). We loved the teaching style and decided to go all in – we signed up for the Lamaze Class soon after. These classes changed things for us big time. We realized where our values were and how they compared to our provider’s. It wasn’t too far into our series of classes that I was begging Liz for help after class about which direction we should go next. At 30+ weeks of pregnancy, I switched my care from an OB to Willow Midwives.
As someone who is both hyper-aware of her feelings AND someone who struggles with change, this was one of the most difficult yet relieving decisions we had made.
My guess date for my baby was October 3. I was FULLY expecting to go past that date. When people asked me when I was due, my answer was often “early October.” I didn’t want my heart and mind set on a specific date, and I knew that first time mothers can often go well past their guess date.
So to say that I was surprised when my water broke (also NOT expecting that to happen first) at 1:45am on Sunday morning would be an understatement. I was only 37 weeks + 6 days… this wasn’t supposed to happen. I knew that baby would likely be fine – but when you have it in your mind that you’re going past your due date and not going to have a movie-worthy water-breaking moment, it comes as a bit of a shock. I woke up my husband with a nudge and said “babe.” He said, “huh?” to which I replied, “my water broke...”
I sat on our couch and called the midwife on call. I told her what had happened and she asked how I was doing... to which I promptly burst into tears and explained how surprised and nervous I was to know that this meant things were starting but that nothing was happening. I had no contractions yet and was intimidated knowing they were on their way. She told me to rest and fuel my body, and we made a plan to meet at Willow at 11am.
I must have fallen asleep… my husband, not so much. He was worried about things being in line for work that day (he works at a church) and having a little bit of the this-is-really-happening jitters. Since I was able to rest and he couldn’t, he ran into work extra early and I tried to sleep. Around 7:30 am I was starting to noticeably feel contractions – and he was on his way home.
There are many moments of my laboring that I can vividly remember and (so many) hours that I can’t quite put a finger on. I remember:
We made sure to eat breakfast – sausage and scrambled eggs.
Not being able to get comfortable – laying on the bed or the couch, walking around the kitchen and living room, being on hands and knees, using the yoga ball, etc. We tried comfort measures that we’d been taught, but I never wanted to stay in a position long enough to really try one.
We stayed in touch with Alicia Kornacker, our doula, but we hadn’t asked her to come over yet because we had no idea how long labor would take and it felt like there was a lot more intensity to come.
Before things were too intense I found a music station that I liked. It was a calming acoustic guitar station playing through our Bluetooth speaker… and that thing went ev.er.y.where. It moved around the house with me, in and out of car rides with us, at the center, etc. Wherever I went, it was playing.
Back labor sucked. Right above my right hip. Baby was sunny side up and I felt it. But we were SO thankful that baby was head down.
Car rides during labor = terrible. When we went back and forth from the birth center (a 20-25 minute drive), I could never get out of that seat fast enough.
I drank water but refused pretty much all other foods.
We met the midwife at Willow as planned. It was the first time I was ever being checked in terms of effacement or dilation. This was VERY uncomfortable for me and one of the things I remember not enjoying the most. Turns out I was about 70% effaced and dilated about 2 cm. I remember feeling happy about the effacement – I knew this had to happen first, but disappointed that it was only 2 cm.
So the midwife sent us home to keep laboring in a familiar space. It was a lot of the same as before… I couldn’t get comfortable, I didn’t want to eat, and I hoped that I would progress soon.
Jonathan had been keeping in touch with both Willow and Alicia since I was in no mood or mindset to do it myself. Around 6 pm, we went back to Willow. We were feeling like things must have been progressing well based on my contractions… but I had only progressed from 2 cm to 3 cm and 70% to 90% effaced. This was SO discouraging to hear. I had been laboring all day and felt like that was nothing compared to how far I needed to get. At this point, Alicia was now at the birth center with us.
The ladies at Willow had also decided to admit me and start my IV for the antibiotic (GBS+). There was also a shift change - and I got the next midwife on call.
My doula, Alicia, gently suggested we try a few Spinning Babies moves to try and ease my back labor. This took a lot of effort and is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We did inversions and hip releases through a number of contractions. Before starting the inversions, I distinctly remember looking at Alicia taking a deep breath, and muttering, “How effective is this?” to which she replied, “it can be pretty darn effective!” (Spoiler alert: It was…!)
After all of that, I remember being on my side in the bed, clenching Jon’s shirt through each contraction, and thinking, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
Candace did another check to see where things were at. She said basically the same thing as Ashley had before… 90% and about 3 cm dilated. Now I really wasn’t sure if I could keep doing this. I was supposed to get to 100% and 10 cm… how on earth could I do that if I felt like I could barely do it now??
At this point we had a few options… basically we could wait around for a little longer and then leave or leave sooner and hopefully end up resting sooner in our home environment. It was already past 10 pm so we opted to head home then.
I was offered a sleep aid, Vistaril, which was like a strong Benadryl in hopes of helping me rest. I took half of the dose there before leaving and half once we got home.
So… we left the birth center and headed home! Another uncomfortable ride… but a little different. I was feeling like a had to go to the bathroom (red flag!) and couldn’t. I never even thought to tell Candace, Grace, or Alicia this. On the way home I was telling Jonathan how miserable I felt because I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t at all. Since we were going home, I figured I could just try until something happened and then I would be more comfortable.
Around 11 pm...
My husband started getting concerned with the way I was complaining combined with the way I couldn't get comfortable. Sitting, laying, standing, nothing helped. I felt like a restless animal.
Jonathan had me try to lay down on the couch, but I was SO uncomfortable feeling like I had to go to the bathroom that I could barely sit down (still did not occur to us that this could be my body trying to push). I laid down and about 30 seconds later popped right back up and said, “this isn’t going to work.”
At this point Jonathan is getting pretty uneasy.
He called the midwife and tried to explain how I was feeling.
She said that it sounded like normal feelings people have and that it was probably just the baby progressing/moving downward (after all, I had JUST left the center less than an hour before and I had only been at 3 cm – it wasn’t likely time for the baby to come out yet).
Jon hung up.
I said, “I feel like I’m hurting myself!” – We called back within 5 minutes.
After a few more descriptions of my discomfort Candace said, "Okay, well just reach down and tell me what you feel." To which I responded, "Uhh, that's baby's head!"
And thus begins the rush to the birth center. Mind you, it’s about 20 minutes away.
My husband to the midwife: "Stay on the phone, we're coming! We're on our way!"
My internal (and quickly fleeting) thoughts: "We're doing this?! Why aren't we calling 911?"
The midwife is on speaker-phone, my husband is driving, and I'm in the passenger seat.
Real talk: I'm wearing a tank top, disposable underwear, and a large blanket. When we left the house in a hurry, my husband said, "No time for shoes, no time for pants!"
The midwife is trying to get me to take short little breaths in an effort NOT to push.
I'm trying. It's really not working. My husband is trying to help model the breathing - I'm terrified he is going to pass out. (I also refuse to look at the speedometer!)
Every time my breathing pauses, my husband, says, "No, no, no, Kelsie." We both know that my body is taking over at this point and I can't help or prevent what is happening.
At some point, I mutter, "The head is coming out." This cues the midwife to start coaching me through instead of against it.
Baby’s head comes out, (for some reason I remember to check for the cord before anyone could even ask,) the shoulders are out, the legs. The baby is on my chest and crying. My husband is teary. I'm remarkably calm. And we're still driving down the road! Our baby was born about 5 minutes from our destination,… so naturally, we kept going.
We still don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl – it was too dark to see!
The midwives met us at the door, wheel chair waiting. Lucky for us, the placenta was delivered at the birth center, and our car was spared from any evidence of a birth. They asked Jon if he wanted to cut the cord - far too full of adrenaline, he said, "I'd love to, but I can't" so I said, "I'll do it." And I did.
Turns out… It’s a boy! While we sat in the birth center bed both full of adrenaline and extremely tired, we decided to commemorate the experience by changing our son's middle name. Instead of Jordan Bennett, he was now Jordan Karr. After some food, early bonding moments, and a little rest, we left the birth center as a family of 3 (about 5:30 am).
There are so many things we realize as we look back on our experience…
We never thought to stop at either of the two hospitals that we passed on our way, we never thought to call an ambulance. We were on a mission from the moment we knew the baby was on his way out! There were no complications, so we have an amazing story to tell. If things had gone poorly, I know my outlook would be much different.
It is a unique story to tell... and some don’t really understand it. But it’s our story and it’s all that I know. It is easily the most empowering, womanly, and strong, (primal even,) thingthat I’ve ever felt.