(As I proofread this story, I feel like there is so much I am leaving out. I may have to do an update as things come back to mind.)
Birth is very personal and intimate for mothers. It is the entrance to a voyage that will forever impress upon our hearts, souls, and the innermost being of who we are. Birth is sometimes scary, but it is also very empowering. It can thwart a mother into her role feeling dignified.
Birth can also leave mothers feeling left empty, defeated, and traumatized.
I experienced birth trauma (read about that here). I needed healing. By the grace of God I was able to enter into my role as Isabelle’s mother feeling dignified and whole.
The days leading up to Isabelle’s birth were long and hard. They were scary and filled with doubt. I doubted myself. I doubted my decision to have vaginal birth after two cesareans (VBA2C). I doubted my body. It was so crucial that I surrounded myself with people who believed in me. People who loved me and believed in my body. I was vulnerable that last month and a half. Most moms are. Had I not been surrounded by people who held me accountable to what I believed was best for my body and for Isabelle, I would have caved. I would have signed up for that c section in a heartbeat.
I had prepared myself for these long bleak days of the third trimester. I had invited people to come alongside me in my journey who I knew would radiate positivity around me. My husband was excited to experience this birth with me. He had educated himself very well, and was prepared for the day when I had my white flag ready to wave. We had an incredible doula who knew the facts, but also believed in me. My sister stood by my side and assured me that this was best, and brought me milkshakes.
All of this is crucial because I went a full week past my due date. We decided that it was best to induce at 41 weeks for several reasons, the most impressing one being that husband had to leave for a music gig just days after (we will talk about hindsight on this matter later).
I did not go into labor on my own, but my wonderful doctor was certain that I was a good candidate for induction. I trusted her, I trusted my body.
We arrived at the hospital at 5:00, checked in through triage, and we were walked to labor and delivery. Our first encounter of resistance hit us right there in the face. The nurse who walked me to my L&D room was giving me a rundown of how things would go. I quickly turned the ball on her and advised her that wasn’t exactly how things would work out. I told her I wasn’t going to get an IV, or be hooked up to any monitoring device until I spoke with my doctor. She advised me, “you realize that could make things take a little longer, right?” I told her I was aware, and that I (blatantly) didn’t care (you will see how funny/ironic this is later). I had some things I needed to discuss with my doctor. We did not see eye to eye on one issue. I had to grab my mommy loins tight and prepare to fight for my baby girl.
My doctor wanted to induce by breaking my water initially. I felt in my gut that this was not right for us. This was not the path I wanted to take. That was not the entrance to my journey of birth. I just knew it. I spoke my concerns to my doctor, even agreed to sign a waiver/consent form (to which she giggled). She ended up trusting my instincts as well and agreed not to break my water (so it wasn’t a “fight” after all). I knew I did not want an epidural (I had done my research on the negative side effects) and that my body needed that literal cushion to get through the contractions - and BOY did it help! Mind you, me and my whole birth team were prepared to walk out of the hospital had she not agreed. We all knew that wasn’t what I needed. Luckily it did not come to that, because my doctor was supportive of me.
We did have an IV started pretty much immediately after doc and I got on the same page (about 7:30 am). This was my nightmare. This was my biggest fear. I had an incredible nurse God so divinely prepared for me. Her name was Kim. She, too, had a phobia of needles (??? a nurse?) and did not like getting stuck herself. She was very good to me. She did not put the IV on the top of my hand, she put it on my forearm. She only had to stick me once - PRAISE GOD! I had a little while of discomfort and anxiety from the IV as I got used to having it in my arm. We used the rebozo to soothe me and to calm me down. In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad; it was in fact the best IV experience i’ve had. I just needed to recover from the anxiety.
Our plan was to SLOWLY increase the pitocin as to not stress my body out, or put undue stress on my incision. Everyone knew we weren’t in a hurry, and that we would take as long as we needed to get Izzy out safely.
I began to feel some contractions, but they did not register as pain to me (it’s ok, call me crazy). They felt good. They felt right. The contractions were so encouraging and exciting! It meant my body was moving my baby down. I had my coloring book and my gel pens, and that was all I wanted to do. Just sit and color. I remember my team laughing at me and asking me if I felt anything as they watched my contractions register on the monitor.
Things did move very slowly. Very.
Eventually the contractions grew stronger and stronger as we increased the pitocin slowly. I found myself in a meditative state. It is probably one of the hardest things to explain to someone who has never experienced it. I was in a different place. I had reached that “holy ground of birth that I so desperately craved.” I stepped into a realm of peace and provision that can only be achieved by trusting the Creator. I gave in to the pain and let the waves of contractions wash over my body. It took the grandest amount of focus and determination - and anything that distracted me from this meditative state ruined my concentration which made me want to run and hide from the contraction, not give in to it. I found if I just let my body work, and didn’t fight against it, I felt no pain, just progress.
We used so many methods to keep me comfortable. I sat on a exercise ball and leaned on a chair. We used the rebozo, I sat on the toilet (I hated that, unlike a lot of moms who love it). We played music. We danced a little. Hubby and I cuddled.
My sister would occasionally rub my hair, hug me, remind me to drink my water, and speak truth over me. She was a runner for us as well taking care of details outside of the room. She handled the details and made sure all we had to worry about was labor. She took care of taking pictures, talking to moms, keeping all of my friends who were worried about me up to date. She captured memories for us.She was a rock, and a crucial part of the birth team. Who has time to worry about the details when you are trying to get a baby out?
Well, low and behold 12 hours passed. Izzy was still high, and I wasn’t very far dilated. We didn’t let it phase us because - we were in it for the long haul. At this point, I told my family, who expected to see the new baby by now, to please go home for the night. I needed to know that they were no longer waiting on me. They came and hug and kissed me, and left.
I remember this part so vividly. I went to the bathroom after telling them all goodbye, stood up, and lost it. I began to weep. I couldn’t explain it, but I was so glad to birth without the pressure (not that anyone was truly putting pressure on me - it was self induced pressure). I felt an incredibly strong contraction, and needed to get back in the bed.
We labored a little more.
...and a little more.
And sometime in the middle of the night/early morning (it’s all a little foggy) I began the slow fade. I began to give up. I began to holler out things like “I hate my body,” “I just want to go home,” etc. I was in a really dark place and did not like my mental state. I was out of control at this point, and (lesby honest) I like control.
I had a nurse come to check my dilation at this point. I was so desperate. So tired. I had been laboring for about 22 hours on pitocin with no epidural, and was a little bit in a crazy state. I heard the door open and I looked at my husband and said “I swear, if she checks me, I’m going to punch her in the face.” Well, Megan, why else do you think she is coming in?? So she proceeded to check my cervix, which induced a contraction. RJ had one arm pinned down (and I think people were holding my legs?), but he probably should have held both down. I took a swing at her. I was seriously going to punch her lights out. Luckily, RJ caught the blow for her as he pinned my second arm down and she remained unscathed.
I had not made any further progress. It was at this point that we decided I needed some medication. They brought me some Stadol to help me rest. Everyone tells me I was asleep before she finished administering it into my IV. I slept for two hours pretty much solid waking a few times for a few contractions. This allowed my birth team to get some semi-rest, maybe not in the form of sleep, but in the form of “the crazy is asleep” rest.
When I woke up, and the medicine wore off, I was experiencing some serious contractions. It took extreme focus to make it through those contractions. By this time, there was another shift change, and God sent me Karen. Karen was amazing. Hands down the best, most empathetic nurse ever. She respected our birth space. She respected my body and my labor. Karen spoke in a calm, hushed tone; I didn’t even know she came in the first time. She knew what our end goal was, and adopted it as her end goal. She was kind and precious.
About 30 hours in, I began to lose all of my energy. Even with cheating and eating some crackers, a protein shake, and drinking water (sorry Dr. Logan), I had nothing left. Nothing. I had not made much progress (despite the pitocin, rebozo, walking, bouncing, birth balling, despite all of it), and it was just time. I allowed my doctor to break my water to see if that would help.
Weirdest feeling ever. I won’t go into detail. Just. Weird.
Did the contractions ever feel different after my water was broke. That cushion was gone and I was feeling pain. I had given up on “giving in to the contractions” and they were registering as straight pain. At this point I was an angry beaver. I said some not so nice things to my husband. I hurt his feelings. I didn’t really want anyone talking to me or altering my situation at all. Even when they tried to offer help, all it did was really frustrate me. At this point, my go to was my doula. All I needed from her was her hand to hold. Somehow, she just knew that. She was so intuitive. She didn’t push me to need her, she didn’t push me to want her. She knew exactly what I needed.
That only lasted for about two or three hours.
My instinct was telling me I needed help. My body needed help. My body needed rest..
My nurse Karen came in to give me my options. The most obvious choice being an epidural. I looked to Bekah, my doula, for advice. She was what I wanted. At this point I had not even so much as made eye contact with hubby in hours. She knew that what I needed was my husband. She told me that I needed to make eye contact with him and that he and I needed to come to a conclusion together. I begrudgingly looked him square in the eyes for what was an incredibly pivotal moment for this birth. We both proceeded to fall apart. We mourned our plans a little, but mostly we connected on a super natural level. Our souls lined up and communicated without words.
It was a really sweet moment. He hated that I did not need him (it was the hormones, I swear). He hated seeing me punch at that nurse, and basically become another person. His feelings were hurt, and we were both so exhausted. He said it was almost as if I was possessed, but not in a bad way - but like I was not there. As if my soul was somewhere else. Once Megan came back we just cried. I told him over and over “I’m ok, I’m ok” as his tears and mine rolled down my tired, swollen face. I didn’t even have to use my “safe word” for the epidural because we all knew I needed it and was “ok” with it. That was all he needed to hear, we bonded so strongly in that moment, and I didn’t want him to leave my side for the rest of the birth.
My birth team and I regrouped, we talked, we prayed, and we knew this was right.
I needed the epidural. I needed some relief. I had given it my all. I had given Isabelle everything I had. I needed to rest and allow my body to regain some strength if she was going to enter this world in a peaceful, non surgical way. I was confident in my decision. No one shamed me, no one made me feel like I had “failed.” Not even myself.
This is where having a care provider who is on your side comes into play. This is where voicing your experiences and your story are crucial. We figured it would be a while before we got the epidural - just because it most often takes a while. Typically, the mother is also not allowed a support person to stay.
The anesthesiologists walked in almost immediately after I requested the epidural. Someone rallied for me to get the epidural quickly. Either my doctor, nurse, or both, they rallied for me. They knew I had experienced trauma and needed this to happen quickly and that I would need my support person.
The epidural. I wish I could tell you the process was awful and that you should never ever go through it (but please, do read about the negative side effects). It wasn’t. After my four failed spinal blocks with previous birth, it was a breeze. I could not have made it through without Rebecca, my doula, though. We “hid out” under my rebozo and made eye contact. She talked me through it and allowed me to squeeze the tar out of her dainty little hands. I asked my doula to stay with me. I didn’t want RJ to get queasy from the epidural.
I was scared of hot spots. I was scared of side effects. But those fears did not last long. The relief was almost instant. I was able to rest. I was able to breathe. At the same time they administered me some phenergan. I had a muscle spasm in my back that was contradicting the rest I was supposed to be getting with the epidural. To say I was loopy would be an incredible understatement. The hilarity of these moments are pretty sacred, though, and are only privy to those who were invited into these memories.
At this time, they cranked the pitocin. I mean CRANKED. We were all very comfortable with this process regarding my previous c sections because they implanted a monitor to read my contractions exactly - to make sure my uterus was safe.
It was time to have a baby. I remember getting really excited seeing the nurse prepare the station for Izzy and all the birth equipment come out.
Thirty minutes later I was pushing.
I was so tired, though. I remember RJ making Dr. Logan laugh to lighten the moment. They both love humor, and resort to humor, when things aren’t exactly pleasant (and use words like “vajayginal”). They hit it off, but Izzy was not in a good position for birth. She would drop down with every push, and as soon as it was over, she would slide right back up. Also, my contractions weren’t very long. You see, I have a really comfy womb - and my babies think they can stay there forever.
I fell asleep in between every push. Karen had to wake me up to tell me to push. I literally felt nothing. Once, I bumped into my leg and apologized to it because I thought it was someone else. Yeah. Karen (my awesome incredible nurse) was on top of me each time i pushed. She was pushing Izzy down and out as I was doing the same. She was fighting for me. My goal was her goal.
Towards the end, things got a little ominous, she just wasn’t coming out. I didn’t know it then, but I had a crew in my room. The jury is still out as to why. I choose to believe that they were there to witness something that rarely happens in our hospitals in Montgomery. They were there to experience this birth with us. Another story could be that they were there for back up, ya know, in case we had to do surgery right there in the room. I’m also told that there was not a dry eye in the room once Izzy finally decided to come out. We had to coax her out with a vacuum and 2.5 hours of pushing, but we did it. Everyone in that room gave it their all.
I was pushing with all my might.
Dr. Logan was pulling with all her might.
RJ was holding my leg and encouraging me with everything he had.
Morgan was capturing every moment, fighting back tears and occasionally rubbing my hair.
Bekah was praying, begging God, and being a positive beacon for everyone.
Karen was pushing on my ribs and coaching me through my pushes.
This moment was a culmination of everything we had been through over the past nine months. All the pushback, all the doubts and fears, every ounce of preparation and education. Right here, this one moment.
I remember someone yelling that her head was out and all I had to do was push a few more times to meet her. So I did. I mustered up everything left in me and pushed like hell. When they laid her on my chest, I felt overwhelmed. I was so excited to see her beautiful little face. I remember her talking to me (not crying) just kinda whimpering lightly.
You see, Izzy was a warrior, too. Her heart rate never fluctuated. She was never even phased by the world around her. She did great. She handled the contractions, the pushing, and the vacuum all with poise and grace. She was dignified by her birth as well.
We got immediate skin to skin, but they had to check her out for a minute before bringing her back to me. That moment of rest was nice. I needed a second before trying to nurse her. Once I finally got her back and began to nurse her I fell asleep. I was O-U-T. I have pictures of my sister holding her on my chest for me.
We had quite the victory during the pushing phase of labor. My doctor asked me if I was ok with an episiotomy. Why is this a big deal? You see often times episiotomies are standard practice. Doctors assume moms are ok with them, want them, need them, etc. and cut mamas without their consent. Well, I was unsure. I never decided “yes” or “no” so I put on my birth plan to please be asked before an episiotomy was administered. So she did. My doc asked me. I was ok with it because of the situation (vacuum/epidural) and we proceeded. You see, the victory here is not “all natural,” the victory here is voice. I had a voice. I was given a choice.
There are so many more details of this birth, but those will remain sacred. It was the most incredible experience of my life to date. I gave birth. I worked hard to bring a baby into this world. I educated and empowered myself. I fought for what I felt was right. I trusted my instincts. I believed in my body. I am healed from my trauma.
6/21 5:30am - arrive at hospital
6/21 7:30am - pitocin started
6/22 5:30pm - epidural
6/22 7:16pm - Izzy born
Yes, you are reading that right 36 hours of labor!
I know that some of you may look at my story and think I should have chosen a c section, and that’s ok. That’s a normal response. Please just keep in mind that this is not your story, it’s mine. Giving birth to Izzy was a privilege and my reward. God gave me this story, this experience, and it is a gift designed for me. A precious gift that I now nourish and will raise up to be a woman of God. Think what you will, but at least walk away educated (and possibly encouraged) that VBACs are possible, safe options for mothers.
This, too, is just a story. Not my reflections or my all encompassing emotions regarding the story. It is such a long story, I could not include them both in one post. I will point out how divine God is, though. He had this event orchestrated perfectly.
-Izzy was not ready to be born. Due dates are just an estimate. Had we waited another week, she probably would have been in a better position and more inclined to come out on her own without induction, vacuum, etc. Next time, I will wait.
-Had I allowed my water to be broken, I would have asked for the epidural much sooner possibly resulting in a repeat c section.
-My nurses were amazing. Perfectly scheduled to meet my needs during each phase of labor.
-The epidural was necessary and very helpful. I felt an incredible instinct that it was “ok” and I have had zero side effects.
-I needed the epidural to make it through the pushing phase of labor. I would not have been able to push as hard as I did, as long as I did, without it. Possibly resulting in a repeat c section.
-It was ok that I never decided on the episiotomy. I never anticipated my labor to be what it was, so I didn’t need to know.
-My postpartum nurse took my IV out early. Hallelujah!
-We were able to allow some nurses to experience natural labor who had NEVER before been a part of it.
-The healing process was so much easier. I was anxious about it, but that was also a waste of time.
I could go on. God is so good! I am so blessed and grateful for his grace and His hand upon my pregnancy and birth. Even when I doubted, he never wavered.