WARNING: Graphic language and photos
So, I may have mentioned that I’m not a very patient person. This is especially true at the end of pregnancy and even more so at the end of this pregnancy.
I’m pretty lucky when it comes to pregnancy I guess. I get very little morning sickness. I don’t ever have to get up at night to pee. I don’t swell or get acne or gain weight in any place but my belly. And, most importantly, I don’t turn into a hormonal mess. But, for whatever reason, this baby decided to make me a crazy person right before he made his arrival which made waiting for him all the more difficult.
I can honestly say that the last few days of my pregnancy were the hardest I’ve ever had with either of my kids. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was uncontrollably sobbing anytime my mind wasn’t completely occupied by something else. And, I was hardly sleeping at all. I went into labor with Cooper naturally at 38 weeks 5 days. I think my psyche took a toll on my body when I past this point in my pregnancy with Lincoln without so much as a hint that he was coming anytime soon. I think VBAC mom’s have an extra pressure as well. Induction increases risk of c-section so you want to avoid that at all costs and going “overdue” lowers the VBAC success rate slightly. So, the closer I got to my due date, the more I lost my mind.
To help, I reached out to the ICAN group (Godsend), Kimberly called me (not happy that she had to read about my state of mind on facebook) and encouraged me to try to relax and keep my mind busy, and, at my 39 week appointment I vented to Belinda. Belinda suggested that I was possibly holding myself back from going into labor subconsciously. I didn’t feel like I was. I felt totally prepared for the road I was heading down. I made peace with the idea of a repeat c-section in the event that I needed one. I knew I was going to be proud of myself for birthing my way regardless of the outcome. I knew I had a good team behind, I trusted my instincts, and all my ducks were in a row. The only thing that could fail me was my body and I was mentally prepared for that outcome. But, I wasn’t about to rule anything out and I was willing to do just about anything to get my labor started. So, the minute I got of my appointment, I texted Kimberly, let her know what Belinda said, and asked her if we could do a fear release. She agreed to come over the very next night.
January 9, 2013:
My sister came by in the morning with a “waiting for labor” care package for me. It included candy, puzzles, bath salts, aromatherapy, and cozy pj’s. She knows me so well. As soon as she left I ate the candy (obviously). When Quinn got home I locked myself in the bathroom. I ran a bubble bath, lit the aromatherapy oils, and soaked in the salts. It was amazing. When I got out, I put on my new, cozy, pj’s and felt totally rejuvenated for my fear release.
Kimberly came by a little later that night. We talked at length, she did some acupressure, and then I laid on the bed while she walked me through a fear release. This being my first fear release I was unsure of what to expect. It was a lot like my hypnobirthing relaxation scripts. I immediately got calm and relaxed and started visualizing. Because I couldn’t specifically identify anything that I was afraid of, Kimberly just walked me through a general one. She guided me through my past birth experience. In my visualization I got to rip out any pages of that book that I didn’t want anymore and only hold on to the good memories from that experience. (I threw out a lot of pages!) Then I got to visualize the upcoming birth. The images my mind conjured up almost bought me to tears. When it was over, I was feeling a ton better. I knew that it was going to be enough to sustain me and keep me sane at least until my due date (January 14th).
January 10, 2013:
I woke up around 3:00AM with a pretty strong contraction. It felt different from the ones that I had been having previously. The best way to describe it is to say that it was a little more intense. As if it was doing more work. I got secretly excited and went back to sleep. I had a few more contractions like that but, just when I went to start timing them, they’d stop. Anyway, I got up that morning around 7, went to the bathroom, and saw “show!” I literally yelled, “yes!” I knew it was for real now. I was definitely in labor. My contractions weren’t consistent yet but I figured that was around the corner. I texted my sister to let her know that I couldn’t go out with her that morning and, around 8:30, I texted Kimberly.
My text read: Hi. Don’t laugh but I think I’m in labor J I’ve been having contractions since around 3am. They’re not consistent really but they’re pretty painful and I’m having show when I go to the bathroom. I don’t need anything right now but I wanted to give you a heads up.
She was excited to hear that, asked me about my contractions, and told me to rest. I let her know that resting was the plan along with taking a walk later to hopefully get my contractions more consistent. Which is exactly what I did. Quinn was home that day, partially to help me because I had become insane in the last few days and partially because he wanted to use all 2 weeks of his paternity leave. (Long story but, regardless of when I had the baby, Quinn was going to have to be back to work to start a new position on the 24th). So anyway, it was nice to have him around helping with Cooper and let me rest. We also took a long family walk later in the day. It did NOTHING to regulate my contractions. I figured that it was just going to go on like this for another day or 2. I wasn’t discouraged though because, for the first time, I really felt like progress toward labor was being made and I wasn’t going to go over due.
At around 4:30pm Kimberly texted to check in. I told her it was more of the same and that I’d let her know if anything changed. She said that a lot of times labor really kicks in in the middle of the night so she was prepared for that. She’d keep her phone on and her car was packed and ready to go. She called around 8 to check in again. I told her that I had nothing to report but I was heading to bed soon to get some rest in case things started in the middle of the night. Once Cooper was put down for the night, around 8:30pm, Quinn and I decided to go to bed. As we were laying there scrolling through the Netflix, trying to find something to watch, I had a hard contraction. At its peak, I heard a POP and felt an intense pain that can only be described as being kicked in the cervix during a contraction. It was horrendous and I was scared. I had no idea what just happened to me. After I got over the initial shock, I took a couple of deep breaths and realized that the sharp pain went away when the contraction subsided. This eased my fears a bit because I knew then that it wasn’t a uterine rupture. However, I still had no idea what had happened. I yelled for Quinn to Google what the help just happened to me. While he was doing that, I looked at my clock- it was just about 9pm. Google told us that it was most likely my water breaking. I didn’t notice any leaking and there definitely wasn’t a big gush, so I wasn’t sure what to think. I called Kimberly.
I explained what had happened and she told me to lay on my side, then get up and see if I noticed any leaking. While I was laying on my side I had a contraction. She listened as I breathed through it and said that they weren’t yet a minute long so I still had some time. When I got up I did leak a little. It was official, my water broke. No turning back now, labor was here! I told Kimberly that we were ok for now but we’d call her when we needed her.
I knew then that I wasn’t going to go back to sleep and my contractions weren’t going stop coming at this point, so I decided to take a bath. While I was in the bath my contractions finally became consistent! Quinn began to time them and they were 4 min apart and about a minute long. At this point I was doing great. I used my hypobirthing techniques to breathe through them. I found myself breathing in visualizing filling my uterus then, as I exhaled, I visualized pushing Lincoln down and exhaling the pain. It was working amazingly well. I didn’t feel like it was anything I couldn’t handle. I just found myself wishing that I was in the birthing tub instead of my bath tub. Around 9:30, I had Quinn call Kimberly. My contractions were only 2 min apart at this point and they were getting longer. I had decided to stop timing them because I knew I was in labor and my contractions were coming, who cared about anything else? Kimberly hopped in her car and headed our way.
From this point on, things are a bit fuzzy. My contractions seemed to be right on top of each other. I was still breathing and working through them but I wasn’t getting any break. Kimberly showed up at some point. I found out later that Quinn answered the door and told Kimberly I was laboring in the bath tub and making grunting noises. She was pretty surprised to hear that. She came in, listed to the baby through a contraction, listened to me through a contraction, and broke me some bad news. There was going to be no time to set up the birth tub. Things were moving VERY fast. I breathed through a couple more contractions in the tub but I was losing my comfort. I decided to try to switch positions and something told me to be on my hands and knees. Once I switched positions, my labor completely changed. My contractions got harder to breathe through and I lost focus. I recall Kimberly telling me some noises to make while I was having them. Something like a low tone “ughhhhhh” or at least that’s what I did anyway. Once I started laboring on my hands and knees, I told Kimberly that I thought it was time to go to the hospital. My exact words were, “If we don’t leave now, I don’t think I’ll want to go.” Turns out, as we were getting ready to go I stopped wanting to go.
Quinn called my sister come over and watch Cooper and called the midwives to let them know we were on our way. On our way was a bit of an overstatement. Getting me out of the tub, dressed, and into the car was proving to be a challenge. Every single contraction I had (and they were around 30 sec apart) sent me back down to my hands and knees. Standing up during one was not an option. At one point, I yelled out, “I really need a break!” And that’s exactly how I felt. I was happy my labor was going fast because that meant that this awful transition portion would be over with soon and I’d have my break before pushing. I knew I was going to need that to gather the strength to push.
So I made it out of the tub and onto my bedroom floor when my sister showed up. She describes seeing my on the floor, naked, having one, continuous, contraction. She thought there was no way we were going to make it to the hospital. And, even if we were, she thought the idea of getting me into a car was ludicrous. Meanwhile, everyone else is scrambling around trying to find me pants and shoes. The pants I wanted to wear were in the wash because, silly us, we thought we had time. I thought the idea of pants and shoes made no sense. I certainly didn’t care if I was naked and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. It’s funny how modesty just goes out the window while in the throws of labor.
Finally pants were located along with soft, leopard print, slippers for my feet. Getting me out of the house was another story. Since I fell to my hands and knees with every contraction, we weren’t going anywhere quickly. Quinn finally helped me out the door but I proceeded to have a contraction right in the driveway. Once again, on my hands and knees. Quinn tried to help me up but me saying “no” and staying on the ground was my way of explaining to him that this was what my body wanted to do and I was going to let it. Fighting it just hurt worse.
The car ride was a nightmare as expected but thankfully we didn’t have far to go. Kimberly sat in the back with me. I was on all fours (surprise, surprise) and she was putting counter pressure on my back. She swears I only had 2 contractions in the car, I swear it hurt the whole way.
Once we got to the hospital they brought out a wheelchair for me. I looked at it like, “What am I supposed to do with this? I can’t sit.” Instead I used it as a walker and headed into triage. I had to go in through the Emergency room so I’m pretty sure I was quite a sight. I was in a fog of contractions trying my best to answer the nurse’s questions. Thankfully, he let me off easy and didn’t even wait for L&D to come down to collect me. He brought me up himself. But again, I was faced with a wheelchair I couldn’t use. The problem this time was that L&D was a long walk so that wasn’t an option either. The triage nurse told me to get on the wheelchair however I could. So that’s what I did…
Once I got to my labor and delivery room Belinda’s sweet voice was there to meet me. I smiled feeling my grandmothers presence in her sweet British accent. Then I had another contraction and immediately forgot anything zen. I got up on my delivery bed, they de-pants me, and Belinda checked my progress. 10cm +2. At this point, that was good and bad news to me. Good for obvious reason, bad because I had decided that I ABSOLUTELY wanted an epidural right that minute! Anytime I could catch my breath I said I needed a break. Belinda told me to try pushing. I said, “No way!” It hurt WAY too much. I said, “I want something for the pain. I just need a break. I can do this if I just have a break.” They said, “No.” I came back with, “I know we never discussed this but I’m dead serious now. I’m not fucking around. Give me something, anything, so I can have a break!” Kimberly responded by telling me that I was going to meet my baby soon. I told her I didn’t care about that. Belinda responded to that by telling me to try to push again. I wanted to kill her. I hadn’t expected to feel this way. First, I thought I would be happy to push, not dreading it. I had always heard that it felt good to push. Lies. All lies. Second, I thought that, because I wasn’t getting any time between contractions, I wasn’t having enough time to get my point across. It wasn’t so much that I thought I couldn’t do it but being on my hands and knees all that time was taking its toll on me. I was exhausted and there really was no break in my contractions. My mother-in-law said it best when I was telling her about it the next day. She said, “Oh, I remember that. You just needed a minute to get your shit together.” EXACTLY! But, I wasn’t going to get it. At that point I would have allowed someone to knock me over the head with a frying pan for some rest but apparently that was off the table as well. After literally banging my fist on my pillow and fighting furiously through two contractions, I realized something. This was the wall. I had read about it in many birth stories during my prep but I never fully understood it until then. There was no way out of this situation then giving in to it. Giving in to the pain, the fear, the exhaustion.
So I started to push and I hated every second of it. With my first push I screamed, “Oh fuck!” and Belinda came back with, “Oh fuck is right!” I laughed even then.
I pushed a few more times, each with an expletive or two. Belinda, Kimberly, and Quinn kept telling me that I was doing great. I felt like an animal and I really just wanted it to be over with as soon as possible. With one push Belinda said, “That’s great Natalie you’re almost there.” I asked her, “How close am I?” She said, “He’ll be here soon.” I informed her, “I’m going to need an ETA.” She must have thought I was insane. But she humored me and said, “I don’t know… 15 minutes.” I took that to mean an hour and tried to wrap my mind around pushing for the next hour. I decided that I could do it and proceeded to go back to work. 2 contractions later, he was out.
Lincoln Alexander Johnson came into this world, caught by the hands of his father, at 11:33pm on January 10, 2013. He was immediately put on my chest and the first person he looked at was me.
I still can’t believe it sometimes. I had my VBAC and, aside from laboring in the tub, it happened just like I wanted it to. More quickly than I expected, but perfect none the less. It’s true what they say about natural birth too, it makes you feel like you can accomplish anything because nothing will ever be that hard again. I have truly redefined what I’m capable of.
Also, as a side note, I want to be clear that I wouldn’t change anything about my birth. After we came home from the hospital I found myself reading something online about labor positions. Apparently hands and knees is the body’s way of turning a posterior baby. Knowing that solidified everything for me and validated every decision I made. I listened to my body and did exactly what it told me to. I trusted my instincts and they didn’t disappoint. Had I gone to the hospital earlier, I would have asked for the epidural earlier which would have forced me to push lying down. There’s no way to be sure but, I believe that laboring and pushing on all fours kept Lincoln in the right position and was the reason I was able to have my VABC.
Shared with permission from: http://myvbacstory.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/my-vbac-lincolns-birth-story-warning-graphic-language-and-photos/
Shared with permission from: http://myvbacstory.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/my-vbac-lincolns-birth-story-warning-graphic-language-and-photos/