Forrest Robert Day, 6 lbs 10 oz, 18.5 inches long, was born on the 10th of May, 2013 at 5:15 pm. In order for you to fully understand how much this birth meant to me as a person, a mother, and a woman, I first need to explain the circumstances of this pregnancy and also why I fought so hard for my VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).
As many of you know, Cash was born 6 weeks early on Christmas Day 2011. The birth was beautiful, but didn’t necessarily pan out the way I had envisioned. When I realized I was in labor, I was terrified. I felt unprepared and scared. I had no idea what to expect and was worried that he was so early. To make a long story short, I had a long and painful labor that ended in a c-section and my baby being taken to the NICU immediately. I didn’t get to hold my own baby for two days. He stayed in the NICU for three weeks to the day. This was definitely one of the most trying times of my life. Looking back on this now, I don’t necessarily have negative feelings about the experience; after all I have my beautiful baby boy who lights up my entire life. However, I knew that this was far from the experience I wanted with my future births. Instead of feeling helpless, unprepared, and uniformed, I was determined to do things differently the next time.
Fast-forward seven months. It was a few weeks into the month of August, and only three weeks after the very unexpected and sudden death of my wonderful father, when I took a pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe it when two lines showed up on the test confirming to me that I was in fact expecting again. Usually this would be a joyful time for any couple, but I will admit that I had a difficult time accepting this pregnancy for several weeks. There were a lot of tears shed, not because I didn’t want another child, but because it wasn’t “in the plan” yet, and I was also still doing some serious grieving over the loss of my dad. I also felt a lot of remorse and guilt about “cheating” my Cash. I felt like he would be robbed of special time with me once the baby came and felt so awful as a mother. It was a very emotional time for us. Over the coming months these feelings gradually started to subside and I was able to get excited about this new chapter in my life.
As I prepared for this birth, I knew I wanted to try something different. I took better care of myself, I ate like a goddess, I taught and practiced prenatal yoga for nearly the entire pregnancy, and I took extra efforts to stay hydrated. I embraced the pregnancy and the changes that were happening with my body. I learned to love my pregnant self, taking pride in my body and what it was capable of. I also took a different approach with how I was going to prepare for the labor. I had friends who had done hypnobirthing in the past and loved it. I decided to sign up for the classes and before I knew it I was completely immersed in everything birth related. These classes taught me to birth without fear, how to take back control, how to be confident and knowledgeable about my body and my options at birth. It reinforced the notion that our bodies are made for birthing, and that we need to trust in them and the birthing process. It helped me turn fear into excitement and anticipation. Through exploring many options, I decided that I was going to do an unmedicated VBAC. I prepared diligently, listening to my relaxation tracks several times daily, doing fear releases and guided imagery daily, practicing relaxation techniques with Brody, and reading as much birth material as I could get my hands on. I hired a doula, I bought my own birthing gown to bring to the hospital, and I even created a book full of positive and empowering quotes about birth that I read each day. I was determined to be ready this time.
Throughout all of this, I still had a lot of fear and anxiety to work through. Since Cash was born six weeks early, I had a very real fear that this would happen again, and that my baby would be taken from me and rushed to the NICU. I also had experienced contractions very early on in this pregnancy, which resulted in me having to quit work and take other precautions. I agreed to take progesterone shots weekly throughout the pregnancy hoping that this would help me go full term. I also worked so hard emotionally and mentally by doing fear release hypnosis daily, if not several times a day as I approached that 34 week mark. Once 34 weeks came, I knew that each day that my baby was still inside me was a blessing. Then came 35 weeks, then 36, then 37! I was full term! Words could not explain how ecstatic I was about this. Then the days kept passing and before I knew it (and with my doctors amazement) I made it to my 39 week appointment. Without the stress of having a preemie baby, I knew nothing would stop me from accomplishing the birth I envisioned. I went into labor the very next day.
(disclaimer: since this was a hypnobithing birth, I will use hypnobirthing language. To avoid confusion, the word “surge” will be used instead of “contraction.”
As the day went on the surges slowly progressed but I was able to walk and talk through them. Later that afternoon my mom came over to pick up Cash. Reality hit me as I was packing him up to go, that he would no longer be my only baby. A wave of emotion came over me as I tried to give him a few extra hugs and kisses before he left. His whole life was about to change, but I knew deep down that it would be changing for the better.
Brody and I spent the afternoon watching movies and relaxing. I was laying comfortably on my birth ball breathing easily through each surge. Later on in the afternoon my Doula came over to check in on me. As soon as she arrived I felt the surges slow down and nearly come to a stop. I think it was because I subconsciously was worried about putting her out since I knew I was still in early labor. She was sweet though and encouraged me to not worry about that. We watched another movie and afterwards went on another walk to encourage labor to speed up. The surges were about 5 minutes apart but were very manageable so Laurel decided she would go home while I napped and ate dinner. After only a few hours I called her back because things had sped up significantly. She arrived at about 9 pm and we continued to labor at home for several hours. As each surge came, she and Brody would help me to my hands and knees and apply pressure to my hips and back. She would whisper to me to relax and to go deeper into my meditation while Brody practiced light touch massage. At one point Laurel sat by my bedside and read me a fear release script as I tried to relax through surges. It was getting more noticeably intense and I started to feel that it was time to go to the hospital. I knew I wanted to do a lot of my laboring at home, but also wanted to get to the hospital in time to get comfortable and situated before the birth. I also knew that since my water had broke that going into the hospital would put me “on the clock” and could possibly start to pressure me to interventions that I did not want. Laurel, who is trained to do cervical checks, told me that she didn’t want to check since she didn’t want to introduce any bacteria that might cause any type of infection or complications, but encouraged me to try to check myself (since you are immune to your own germs). I went in the bathroom and did my best but wasn’t very confident in what I was doing. As I was checking a huge gush of fluid came out all over the bathroom floor. When I came out of the bathroom Laurel tried to explain to me how to tell how open (dilated) I was and we came to a guess that I was a 5 or 6. That was enough for me to feel ready to go to the hospital even though I knew they would hook me up to an IV and administer antibiotics.
At about 1:30 am we packed up the car and were off. After a short car ride, and several intense surges in the parking lot, elevator, and hospital hallway, I was finally set up in the triage room and the nurse was checking my cervix. My heart absolutely sank when she told me that I was not even a 2. I started to have flashbacks of my first birth and felt very, very discouraged. Laurel explained to me that because my
water broke, there was a possibility that my surges would be much more intense than they would have been without the water being broken. I threw a small pity party for myself as I thought about how much longer I had to go and how intense my surges already were. I put on my hypnosis tracks and tried to get my courage back. They emitted me to the hospital and took us to my room.
After we got settled in, the doctor came in and informed me that they were starting the antibiotics and that I had a few options. They were willing to let me go a couple of hours to progress on my own, but warned me that if I hadn’t shown much progression at the 24 hour mark of my water breaking they would need to talk seriously about a c-section. I had only a few hours to prove that my body could do this on its own. I broke down, crying to the nurses that I didn’t want another c-section. This was the only moment in my labor that I felt fear; fear that my control would be taken away as well as my dreams of a vaginal birth. At this point I had to make some critical decisions. I had my birth plan, that I prepared so diligently for, but also knew that sometimes you have to sacrifice some of your wishes. I knew going into the birth that I wanted to go without an epidural but also knew that the most important outcome was the VBAC, regardless of how I achieved it. After discussing the options with Laurel and Brody we decided that the best option at this point would be to get the epidural so I could rest, seeing as the labor had been going for so long already and had a long way to go. I felt confident in this decision and empowered knowing that without that rest I would not be able to deliver vaginally. The epidural was amazing; I’m not going to lie. It was what they call a “walking epidural” which means I could still move my legs, and still feel each contraction, but it took the ease off just enough that I could rest in comfort. It kicked in quickly and we were all able to get some much-needed sleep.
While I was resting I kept using some of my hypnosis techniques that I had practiced so diligently in preparation for this birth. Throughout this pregnancy, I have always felt a closeness to my Dad. I had a distinct feeling that this little baby was with my Dad, preparing to come down to meet me. I also believed that this baby would teach me things, things that I “missed out” on learning from my Dad since he was taken at such a young age. Everything my Dad didn’t get to teach me, I would learn from this baby throughout the rest of my life. During this meditation, I was taken to places that were meaningful to my Dad; places where special memories were made; places that we went together; places that we both loved. It felt so real. I felt an overwhelming feeling of peace and comfort during this time and when I “woke up” again I knew that everything was going to work out for the best. I felt confident and at ease.
Once we all woke up we decided to do some natural things to help labor progress. I wanted to do all that I could because I knew that the next cervix check would make the difference between a c-section and a VBAC. They needed to see progress. We did more pressure points, we applied clary sage and fennel essential oils to my belly, and I even took out my breast pump and started pumping for some nipple stimulation. After two hours the nurse came back in to check me and I was thrilled to hear that I had progressed to a 4! The doctor came in to tell me that even though I had passed my 24-hour point, they wouldn’t need to intervene as long as it continued to progress on its own. This was a huge blessing to me because some doctors would not be willing to let me do this. I was so happy. I knew I still had a long way to go, but also was confident that my body was able to do this.
By this point it was late morning and I decided that I wanted to have my mom, mother-in-law, and my son come visit me. It was so nice to have them come visit and encourage me. It was a welcomed relief from the hard work that labor had been so far. Hours continued to pass, the nurses came in to check me periodically and each time I was progressing, slowly but surely. Finally, finally, finally, she told me that I was a ten and that soon I would be able to start pushing. She told me that I had a small cervical lip that was in the way but that with some gentle pushes and a little more time it might go away. At this point I had everyone except my birth team leave the room and I started to use my breath to gently push past that cervical lip. The nurse came in after about an hour and said it was completely gone. She told me that I could now push when I felt the urge to push. It was wonderful that she respected my wishes and didn’t do any coached pushing throughout the entire delivery. I asked her at this point to turn the epidural off because I knew that my pushing time would diminish drastically if I could feel more, and I wanted to be able to feel this part as insane as it sounds.
Here comes the crazy part. I pushed, and I pushed hard, and hours were passing. I was starting to get frustrated and exhausted. At this point I was coming up on nearly 35 hours of labor and I didn’t know how much more I could do. The epidural had worn off and all I could feel was pain. Yes I used the pain word….I told myself that during this labor I would avoid that word, and this is the only time I vocally said it, but it is what I felt. Pain. I started to fall apart emotionally. I cried and begged the nurse to turn the epidural back on. She did, but it didn’t work. I kept trying to turn it up with no avail. I could still feel so much. I checked out for a while, deciding that I had no energy left to push. I laid on my right side and felt as if I was going in and out of consciousness. I have no idea how much time passed while I was in this state. The next thing I hear is the nurse coming in to tell me that the baby’s heart rate was not recovering very well from the last three surges and that if it continued to do this, the doctor would come out of the surgery that he was currently in, to come and take me back for an emergency c-section. She said that now is the time to do something if I wanted my vaginal birth and that she would help me get there as long as I listened to her and did what she said. “When the doctor arrives, he better see the head” she told me. This immediately snapped me out of my daze and I knew what I needed to do. I turned to a new position on my back, grabbed my legs while Brody and Laurel supported them, and started to push with everything I had during each surge. The nurse encouraged me with each surge without coaching me. Instantly the baby’s heart rate recovered and the tension diminished. I continued to push though, seeing that time was not working in my favor at this point. Laurel called for back up since she was so physically exhausted and two more doulas arrived shortly. I had so much support in that room, it was unbelievable. Natalie, one of the back up doulas, hugged me and whispered some energy work to me helping me get the courage to continue, while everyone else continued to encourage me in other ways.
Although I was so physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted, an overwhelming feeling of power overcame me at this point. With each surge I pushed as hard as I could. At the end of each surge I would scream. This wasn’t a scream of pain (although I could feel just about everything) but rather a scream of control. I was in control and this was going to happen the way I wanted it to. I am embarrassed to think of what everyone was thinking outside the room, but I in the moment I didn’t care. I was using every fiber in my being to give birth to this baby. That is when they told me that they could see the head. I reached down to feel it, as if I didn’t believe them, and there it was. I was close. The nurse also informed me that the baby was posterior facing (which might explain why I had been pushing for so long with not a lot of success). Posterior facing babies are one of the leading causes of c-sections seeing as it is much more difficult for the baby to pass through the birthing canal this way. I didn’t let this discourage me. Each surge was getting more and more effective and I could feel the baby moving down. Finally, the nurse had to run and get the doctor because he wasn’t going to make it in time. When he came in he was surprised to see how close I was and immediately get set for the birth.
I worked, I yelled, I screamed, I grunted. I cried out to the baby, asking him to please come now. I remember pleading with my Dad in my head, telling him that it was time to let him come, that he needed to say goodbye, and that I would take such good care of this baby. At this moment, I very distinctly felt a hand on my shoulder. When I opened my eyes to see who it was that was touching me, I was very surprised to see that it wasn’t anybody from the room. I had always been a believer that God sends angles down to help laboring women, but now I had a conviction that it was true; I felt my Dad in the room with me. At this moment, the final song of my birthing CD started to play. It was the instrumental theme song from the Forest Gump sound track. It was one of my Dad’s favorite songs, one that we listened to so many times together. Brody and I were overcome with emotion and with one final push, the head was out, and without much effort the rest of the baby followed. Tears of joy were on were on nearly everyone’s’ faces as they placed the baby on my chest. Brody kissed me and whispered to me that we should name him Forrest, which seemed so fitting after the birth. His middle name would be Robert (after my father).
I did it. I had my VBAC. I gave birth to my son. With so many things that could have worked against this (premature breaking of my water, slow dilation, cervical lip, posterior facing baby, 38 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing,) I still did it.
I’m so grateful for all the supportive hands during my labor. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing husband Brody, my wonderful doula Laurel, as well as the back up doulas Natalie and Mary, and of course the nurses and doctors who so graciously read and followed my birth plan, exercising patience and care. Also, I cannot leave out all my supportive family members and friends throughout the pregnancy and amazing birth. But also I need to recognize myself and my own abilities. I am a strong person and I believed in myself throughout the entire process. I never doubted my body’s capabilities and trusted myself. I was never out of control, never helpless, never fearful. Instead I was in control, informed and empowered.
Daddy holding Forrest
Cash Meeting his little brother for the very first time!
Two car seats!
My little Forrest