It was 11:53pm the night before my birthday. And the next day would become the most unforgettable birthday of my life. I didn’t receive a single gift that day, didn’t eat any cake or blow out candles, and almost entirely forgot that it was “my” day because all I was focused on was bringing a baby into this world after nine months of an exhausting and frustrating pregnancy. I was focused on having a home birth and a successful VBAC.
(Since this story I’ve had another home birth! Read I am birthing hear me roar for more. )
I started having contractions like small waves, coming and going. 8 minutes, 7 minutes, 7 minutes, 8 minutes, 14 minutes… I held my breath for a second hoping I had just missed timing one… 8 minutes, 8 minutes, 8 minutes… I finally went to sleep. An hour and a half later, the waves hit me harder and stronger and the only thing I could think about was cleaning my house.
It was 2:30am and I was scrubbing counters, putting away toys, and folding laundry. And that’s when I realized I was truly in labor.
Please be aware I am sharing my birth story and birth photos. Some photos, while not extremely graphic, may be something that could make one feel uncomfortable. So please be forewarned. All the beautiful birth photography was taken by Photos by Dorothea based in Tulsa, OK and is being used with permission.
My contractions were all over the place from 14 minutes to 4. I had eaten a protein bar, munched on some hazelnut butter, and sipped on chlorophyll water. A couple hours later, I put on my birth affirmation shirt, ate some eggs and toast, rested while timing contractions, and sent a text to my midwives, Faith and Sarah. Between the intense contraction that came every 5th or 6th time, the fetal shaking I had experiences, and my lack of sleep, I woke up my husband and asked him to pray with me because I was just not feeling very confident.
9:30am rolled around and my mother-in-law drive me to an “emergency” chiropractic appointment where I paced the lobby waiting my turn. The receptionist brought us a tennis ball to use as counter pressure and in my misery of unending tail-bone pressure, I squatted, holding on to anything that would support me.
My chiropractor finally called me back where she adjusted my hips, did a tailbone release, got my pubic bone aligned and in place, did a diaphragm release, and showed my MIL different ways to teach my husband how to apply pressure for when I might need it during labor. And I felt amazing. So much pressure relieved, but now my contractions were even more erratic spanning from 21 minutes apart to less than 40 seconds.
We left and went to the Walgreen’s across the street to pick up some last minute things (you know, like a thermometer battery that should have been purchased months ago…). In this very easy trip into the store, I started feeling a really tight and heavy spot in the middle of the left side of my back. It was like someone stabbed my through the back and into the gut. I felt so sick and could hardly walk.
This awful feeling continued even when we got home and I remember texting the midwives telling them I felt better and worse all at the same time. I ate, I tried to nap, and I tried to focus on anything I possibly could that wasn’t the pain in my back. It felt like I was going to be sick about 80% of the time and that was something I wasn’t prepared for in the slightest and I was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t focus. (Which is probably good because even though I wasn’t focusing on the positive, I also was not thinking about the fact that I was attempting a VBAC or that I might fail).
It was 2pm and I was sitting backwards on the toilet.
It’s the only thing that made my tailbone fall into a better place and be able to rest my head. And my contraction pattern improved like this. But I sat there for 3 hours. Alone. It was mentally the hardest part of my labor and I was doing it by myself. I wrote a sign that is still hanging behind the toilet that declares “You are my strength when I am weak”. I sat there trying to sing to myself and was fighting back tears. In a moment of desperation and loneliness, I posted in my blogger network what was happening. And in an instant I was flooded with support, encouragement, and virtual hugs from around the world. And suddenly I felt motivated and so uplifted.
My husband got home and I tried going for a walk with him (more like a shuffle) and I could hardly move. It was excruciating. And my contractions fell back into a sporadic pattern. Labor was not supposed to be like this. It wasn’t with my first and beyond that I knew I shouldn’t be in so much pain. I knew I shouldn’t feel sick. Not yet anyway.
Somewhere around 7-8pm, Faith and Sarah showed up to check on me ( they are about an hour to an hour and a half away) and I was laying on the couch just praying not to die… because I really felt like death. They asked to check me so they did.
And my cervix was pointed to the left.
What?! I didn’t even know that was possible. I was hating my body right about then and cursing the discomfort that came along with my midwife center-aligning my cervix. I think I almost passed out when she said that I was only 2cm dilated. I had been in labor for over 18 hours and was at 2 cm. It was a cruel joke; it had to be.
When they were done though it felt like the load of bricks I had been hauling in the left side of my back was gone and that the fog had lifted from my eyes. Who knew that I was having pain in my back from my cervix and who knew just how draining that was?! They told me to stay on my hands and knees or at the very least, on my right side to help keep my cervix in place. And they told me to rest. That I could now do.
The midwives packed up because they had another birth that had picked up pace and it was back the other direction and would take them at least an hour and a half to get there. So I prepped myself to rest. Knowing I needed to eat and that my toddler needed daddy instead of nana time, he took her to get us some food. I drank more chlorophyll water, took some vitamin C, used the bathroom, turned on my diffuser, and fell asleep.
5 minutes after falling asleep and while I was still in the foggy, in-between stage, it felt like my pubic bone exploded and split into two pieces. There was an ominous pop and I tried to scream and nothing came out. I tried again and it sounded like a whisper. My MIL finally heard me and helped me to the bathroom where I checked my pH.
My water had broken.
And now my contractions were back after having been gone for over an hour. We sent texts and called the midwife because now not only were they back, but my contractions were so intense. They had just made it to the other birth so one stayed and the other came right back.
In the meantime, I made it out of the bathroom and had to stop in the dining room floor where I was on my hands and knees. Somehow I was coherent enough to continue to time my contractions and answer midwife texts, but I really don’t remember it much at all. I do remember my husband getting home and that I screamed at him for being too loud walking across the floor with shoes on. I should have known then that I was in transition, but thought there was no way since I was only 2 cm about 2 hours before.
In some strange moment of listening to my body and my instincts, around 11:25pm I got up after the end of a contraction and moved across the house into the bedroom. Apparently my MIL and husband had been texting the midwife during this time and she was rushing down the turnpike and said she was 25 minutes away. We have contractions timed until my midwives arrived, so 11:57pm Faith walked in the door. I remember begging/demanding the birth tub once I heard her voice.
I was in such a haze that I remember hearing the hustle and bustle of my birth team and photographer, chatter with my husband, and Faith’s soft voice encouraging me as I labored. I vaguely remember hearing Rebecca and Faith discussing that they didn’t have time to inflate and fill up the pool, but I guess at the time I didn’t think that meant I was so close to delivering.
With my first, I remember getting yelled at in the hospital to not push when I told them I had the urge to do so. Therefore, I remember feeling this overwhelming urge to push and I was kind of afraid to even say it so I told her it felt like I needed to poop. (I mean really, how is that any different at this point in the game or any better? I don’t know. But laboring Kara thought it was.) I thought there was no way I was even close to delivering and that I would just be disappointed and deflated if I said it. But when I announced that and said I did need to push Faith said “Then go for it!” She told me there was a small lip of my cervix left but she could hold it back.
Want to know how I prepped for labor? See me online childbirth class here.
Upon pushing she discovered that my sweet girl had her hand and arm up by her head. So oddly enough, the supine position and pulling my own legs back was the only effective way for me during the initial push phase. I remember Faith telling me that I could feel her head if I wanted. While I was still pretty hazy I do remember that being an almost magical moment for me. My husband said that I beamed, gushed, and melted in that moment.
After the head came out, everyone helped me flip to my hands and knees and my husband caught her and handed her up underneath me.
Not once did I think about my previous cesarean or the scar it left me or the possibility or uterine rupture. Not once did I ask to go to the hospital. Not once did I say or think I couldn’t do it. I knew I could have a VBAC and I did.
12:29am December 19th my VBAC baby was born.
We don’t share a birthday. My Home Birth did not go as planned. And yet it was the most beautiful moment of my life.
Find more on Pregnancy, Childbirth, VBAC, and Baby Here, or read Why I decided on a Home Birth and Midwife.
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!