My VBAC Story
It’s been a year, and I haven’t written her birth story. When I had my first, Magnolia, our birth story unfolded in a way that we would have never imagined. It was scary, traumatic, and hard on all three of us. I needed to write it down and get it OUT. It was therapy for me to write it and I shed a lot of tears during the process. But with Clementine, things were a little different. While our birth still didn’t go as planned, I felt mostly happy with it. We transferred, we didn’t get yet another birth that we had hoped, but our wishes were listened to. With her story, the pull wasn’t there to write it out immediately. But now it’s time.
Magnolia was born via cesarean section, so my options were try for a VBAC at home, or in the hospital. I chose homebirth and loved my care throughout pregnancy with my midwife Stacie Meredith. I felt confident in my body and birthing this baby, and I was again excited for the day(s) to come when I’d be in labor, working to meet this little person.
The night of October 20th, I had contractions on and off all night, but they stopped by morning. I got Magnolia ready for school, but called Josh to come and take her. I knew that I should rest, but didn’t want to. I wanted to finish up my work and get some things ready for this little person to come. I had cramping throughout the day, but nothing major and I was looking forward to having my friend Amy come over to draw henna on my belly and my birth photographer and friend Monet was coming over to photograph it.
I spent the afternoon with them, chatting, getting my belly henna’d and feeling excited about this baby coming into our lives. Once they left, Josh came home and made dinner and I had some intermittent contractions. I knew it was going to be soon…Later that evening, contractions kept coming, but they were pretty mild. The three of us watched TV downstairs, Magnolia rubbed my back as I sat on my hands and knees over the birth ball, trying to keep this little person in the optimal fetal position. No posterior babies!
Josh put Magnolia to bed, and then he went to bed himself. I was up every 10 minutes with contractions as I lay on the couch, eventually they were coming more regularly and I downloaded a contraction app to try to time them. I did pretty well, by myself, contracting every few minutes throughout the night. At about 2am I went upstairs and woke Josh up, I couldn’t do these by myself anymore. While there I had a contraction in bed and I started to moan through them, I knew it really was time and this little person would be here soon. Josh started filling up the birth tub and I filled the bathtub upstairs, I had contractions every few minutes and was pretty loud. I was shocked Magnolia hadn’t woken up yet, even through the air pump filling up the tub and me moaning pretty loudly every few minutes…..And then I had a really strong contraction and I was pretty loud, and she woke up. She was really excited, and it was a lot harder to work through contractions with Josh attending to her and trying to fill the tub. We wanted to call our sibling doula, but I kept pushing it off until morning. Finally around maybe 5am, we called our midwife and asked her to come, as well as our sibling doula, Jasmine, and birth photographer Monet. My birth team were all people that I loved, they were friends, and it felt wonderful to have them around me.
I worked through contractions in our bedroom for a while, and I remember the cars showing up and people coming in. I remember looking out the window and thinking that today was the day we would meet this person (and then I thought, oh no, did I just jinx myself?). My midwife Stacie checked my dilation and I was 5cm! It was such a great number to hear, I was worried I had people coming too early and I was’t really in labor; but I was! I only made it to 6cm with Magnolia before I had a cesarean, so 5cm felt amazing!
It was a cool fall morning, and I labored in the bedroom while it was dark. Then made my way out to the living room to see the space transformed into a birth space with the addition of the birth stool, my midwife’s bag of items, the birth tub filled up in my birth space, lit with candles and my birth affirmations. I sat on the birth stool, it felt very comfortable, and I had contractions while listening to everyone talk. Magnolia didn’t like my loud vocalizations and she covered her ears through the contractions.
Josh and I went outside, let out the chickens, had contractions around the yard, and I wanted to go for a walk down the road. During pregnancy, I often walked to the field by my house to look at the mountains, and so we walked over there, with the early morning sun and cool fall air. Monet came with us and I thought to myself that these would be beautiful photos. I love being outside, and laboring outside was something I looked forward to with my homebirth. I started to get cold, so we walked home and I had steady contractions the whole time, but they were only about 45 seconds long and I remember wondering if they were strong enough.
Josh held me through every contraction. He was my rock. His smile and excitement warmed me, I love him so much. The day we had Magnolia, I loved him more than I ever thought possible. This day felt like that day. His was so excited he couldn’t stop smiling!
When we got back, Stacie listened to baby and Magnolia was still really high energy. I was ready for her to go to school soon. It was a long morning. I decided to get in the water, I’d been waiting for that tub for the whole pregnancy and I was so excited to be finally getting into it. I remember looking out the window and asking Josh to go and put some chicken food by the side of the house so that I could watch the chickens. Ha! The funny things you want in labor, I wanted a distraction. I vaguely remember Josh out there trying to get the chickens into the side yard, I don’t remember if it ever happened though.
I kept asking why Josh was smiling, and he said, ‘because we are doing this, you are doing this, we are having this baby’. Over and over he said, ‘we are having a home birth, this is going to happen, we are meeting our baby today.’ It warmed my heart to see his smile, it was much easier this time around, with Magnolia’s birth, things were scary and intense with pitocin and being in the hospital, and this labor wasn’t like that at all.
Eventually it was time for Magnolia to go to school, I remember she didn’t want to go, but I needed her to go. It needed to be quieter. She was very high energy from being up half the night and being SO excited. I hoped that I could have this baby right when she got home, that would be perfect. She goes to school from 9am-1pm, and our sibling doula (and friend) took her and picked her up while Josh stayed with me.
I wanted labor to progress. I wanted this baby to come out at home. I was determined. I labored in the tub, in the shower, in my bedroom, on the birth ball, on the birth stool. I changed positions a lot and followed my gut. I ate yummy bagels that Monet’s husband brought us, I did everything I was supposed to do. We listened to my birth playlist, over and over. Music is an important part of our lives and with each song that I’d hear, I’d think about when I chose to add it to the list, and why it was important to me. I looked at my affirmations, I thought of my friends and family who wrote them for me. I believed them. My body can do this. I did everything I could to get this baby out at home.
I remember trying to take photos at one point, and trying to text my mom back on my husband’s phone. I remember being in the shower. I remember laboring on the toilet, a lot, and doing everything my midwife said to do.
Eventually I asked her to check me again and we thought I was 9cm! I was shocked! It was the best news ever. The second midwife came, and I knew it was getting closer to babytime!
But as the day went on, Magnolia came home, I was still having contractions but they were spacing out. I started to worry, why wasn’t this getting more intense? If I was 9cm, where was baby? Why wasn’t I having the urge to push? What was going on? I wasn’t sure things were moving forward.
I was checked again and I wasn’t 9cm, I was more like 5cm. I was shocked, and so so sad. Here we go again, I couldn’t dilate, I wasn’t getting past 5cm and I wasn’t making change. This baby wasn’t going to be born at home, and I was so sad. This beautiful homebirth that I had worked so hard for was slipping through my fingers. The midwives wanted me to rest, and I tried, we laid down and watched a movie, my ‘go to’ movie when I needed a mental distraction. But I kept having contractions every few minutes and I never really got any sleep, also, labor was really painful when I was laying down. This baby was in a wonky position and trying to get through my pelvis.
I started to think that the doctor who told me I’d never have a vaginal birth right?
I remember being in the tub again. The water was much cooler, the tub was deflating slightly on the bottom. I remember knowing we had a slow leak in the bottom padding when we blew it up to test it weeks ago, and after about 12 hours, it deflated some. I remember saying that, ‘we wouldn’t need the tub for 12+ hours’ … but we did. Josh was still smiling, but I wasn’t so sure. (see photo for exact representation of my feelings lol)
I had been laboring for nearly 24 hours at this point, not to mention the whole night prior when I had contractions every 30 minutes, then all throughout the day prior I had cramping, so it was actually more like 36 hours.
Magnolia was overtired, Josh spent time getting her to sleep and I labored, scared, with my team, but nothing was really making me feel better.
The talk of transfer came up and I knew it was coming. I was really upset. We went for another walk, I cried, I leaned on Josh, and asked why this was happening to us again? How were we going to pay for this hospital birth, because we had already paid for a home birth and our insurance is terrible. I was scared for so many reasons. I asked my midwife to try the rebozo and I do think that helped to get baby into a better position, but it didn’t change my dilation. We had to leave. Monet was going to go home and get some sleep. Magnolia was going to go to our friends house, which was extremely devastating to me, I can hardly think of that part without so much agony on my heart. I cry everytime I think about it. I was going to the hospital, again, Magnolia would miss the birth of her sibling and she’d wake up without us at home and go to our friend Mary’s house. She doesn’t do great without us, especially at night, and I was so sad.
My heart was breaking. We called my mom and told her what was happening, and we went to the hospital. It was the worst car ride of my life, my contractions picked up while we were in the car, I was devestated, and depressed. Josh’s smile was gone.
We got to Denver Health, and I went to triage. I had been there before for a NST, and I knew the midwives were nice, but I didn’t want to be there.
My contractions got really strong again while in triage. It was hard to work through them and I was trying to decide whether to get an epidural and pitocin and rest, or if they should break my water and I should labor in the tub. I was so tired at this point, this was the third night of contractions, and I hadn’t slept since Tuesday. (it was Friday night). Going upstairs to the room, I was sad, this was not the safe and sweet space that I hoped our baby would be born in. Magnolia wasn’t here. It wasn’t right. This wasn’t supposed to be.
It was late at this point. Maybe midnight or so. I was finally in a room, my nurse was nice and I liked her a lot. But it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I decided to get an epidural and try to sleep. I felt like I was failing. I wanted to FEEL my baby coming out of my body and now that was gone too.
The anesthesiologist had to try twice to get the epidural in and it didn’t ever feel quite right. Eventually I got some relief and I thought I was going to sleep. It’s what I needed badly, but then all of the doctors came in to explain things to me. It was 1am at this point, but I had to sign the c-section forms. Here we go again, I thought. I was crying, asking about clear drapes and family centered cesarean and my photographer. The doctor didn’t give me the answers that I wanted to hear and I was really angry and tired. The midwives told me the baby didn’t have a lot of variability in her heart rate. I wasn’t super in love with the midwife who was there either, I really needed rest and now I was completely anxious. I knew what all of this meant. We’d done this before and I’ve attended 50 births since then…it wasn’t good news and I was so scared. Finally everyone went away, and I was supposed to sleep. At least they were giving me time, I thought. I asked Josh to set up his phone so that I could see Magnolia sleeping at home (we have a camera that shows her bed and we can see it on our phones). I watched her sleep and tried to watch a movie to get my mind off things. But I couldn’t. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. I think I texted with my sister at some point. Then I lay there, with everyone sleeping around me, crying my eyes out, trying to trust doctors, midwives and nurses that I didn’t even know, again. Praying that I’d at least get to VBAC.
The heartrate monitor was on, loud, and I just kept listening for variability. I was having a lot of pain suddenly, in my side. Our nurse, Maggie, came in and tried to help. I couldn’t move, but hated the position that I was in. The pain was terrible. We talked about her name and watched Magnolia on the monitor, and she asked if we called her Maggie, I said no Magnolia likes her full name, no nicknames. Maggie eventually called the anesthesiologist and he gave me a bolus of medicine a few times. It was all very intense and painful. I hated this because I couldn’t move and the pain felt worse because I was immobile. Finally the midwife came in and checked me, instead of needing medicine, I was just in transition, my water had broke and I was 10cm. Thank goodness! They wanted me to labor down, and I don’t really remember much of this time. Monet came back very early that morning, and there were new nurses and midwives because it was shift change. I don’t really remember meeting Cheryl, but she was my new midwife and I liked her a lot. She had a student midwife with her who was catching baby, but I really wished it was just Cheryl.
It was time to push. This time is really foggy, I don’t remember it being ‘time’ to push, but it was. I was so completely exhausted, I was at around 48 hours of labor at that point. It had been 4 nights of no sleep and I got NO sleep on the epidural either. Not even a wink.
I really didn’t want to push on my back and tried to change positions, but the boluses the anesthesiologist had given me was so strong that my legs wouldn’t work. I felt awful. I didn’t want to birth like this, and my side and back hurt terribly and, I was so uncomfortable and I wanted to get off of my back – but couldn’t.
The babies head was very low and I asked for a mirror. I never in my life thought that I’d want a mirror, but I really did. If I couldn’t feel her coming out, I wanted to see her! I put my feet up on the pushing bar and pulled on a sheet to push. This wasn’t working so we changed and had me holding my legs. I hated the position, it was just extremely uncomfortable the entire time and needed it to be over. I could see her moving down and I knew I was pushing well. At some point, I vaguely noticed they were watching her heart rate pretty intensely, but I was pushing and I knew I could get her out. I was so thirsty. I kept asking for water, but was told I couldn’t have any. I remember saying its like running a marathon without water. It was, but a 50 hour marathon! I remember thinking that if her heartrate was low, hydrate ME and change positions. Two things that I wanted to do so badly, my body was telling me to do them, but I wasn’t able to. It felt against all of my intuition.
It wasn’t long before I could see her crowning. Pushing was hard. So so hard. The position and my thirst and exhaustion made it really tough. I remember thinking how hard this really is! I never got to push with Magnolia.
Josh started smiling again. He was finally believing this was going to not end in a cesarean and I was doing it! He wanted to catch the baby, so as we neared the end the midwife asked if he wanted gloves. He asked, ”do I have to wear them?.” She said no, so he didn’t.
I pushed again and her head was partially out and we waited for the next contraction. I couldn’t believe I didn’t get her out on that contraction. Her head was halfway out of me and I couldn’t believe it! The pain in my side was really bad and the student midwife told me to push my bolus button again, I was about to when Stacie said she’d be out soon. I was glad she reminded me. kept closing my eyes in between because there were so many people in the space that I didn’t know, 2 nurses, 2 midwives, and then my birth team of Monet, Stacie, and Josh. One of the nurses said, ‘the baby is coming out, and we all looked (I was not contracting, nor was I pushing) and the baby kind of flew out. Ironically, after 50 hours of labor, she managed to get out on her own at the end, at the very last second! I wasn’t even pushing! Josh caught her and we saw that she was a girl! Another girl! She had blondish-red hair and blue eyes and she was staring at me. I loved her so much.
This photo above amazes me. You can see her moulding on her head, so she wasn’t posterior as I had thought, just in a weird position. You can see my cesarean scar from Magnolia’s birth and Clementine coming out of my vagina. I couldn’t believe it happened. I watched it in the mirror and reached down to catch my baby.
The best feeling in the world is the feeling of a warm and squishy baby on your chest. I remember saying that she was so warm. She was so warm. Over and over. Or at least, I was thinking it. Magnolia was never on my chest after birth, this was totally different and it was amazing! I loved her, I loved this feeling, I’d do it all over again because of this feeling. Sometimes it fades from my memory a little bit and looking at the photos bring me right back to it. I’m so glad that I have them. All cesarean moms should be able to have their fresh baby placed on their chest. I say this for many reasons, mostly because it does facilitate bonding and I think that it’s immensely important. I will advocate for Family Centered Cesarean Birth always.
Then I was thirsty, and I asked for water, everyone laughed, and I drank so much water. It was the best water that I’d ever tasted, it was the best drink that I’d ever tasted! Icy and cold. I’ll never forget that water.
I was so happy to see Josh smiling. I laughed so much at that shirt, because he never stopped believing that I could do it. I love him for that, always. The shirt was a personal joke between us, so it makes me laugh that it’s in all of the birth photos.
It took us a week to name her, but eventually she was born;
Our little Peanut. Clementine Lucille Mason, 6lb 11oz.
Born on October 24th at 10:26am. After 50 hours of labor. I got to VBAC, and it was hard and awesome.
My team of Stacie Meredith, CNM, Monet Moutrie, photographer, gorgeous belly henna by Amy Haderer, sibling doula Jasmine Schrader and Gina Gerboth second midwife. Denver Health Midwifes during transfer, Cheryl and Jessica you are amazing, and to our nurse Maggie – so much love sister.
I’ll never forget this moment, as she looked up at me and we stared at each other. I fell completely in love with her here. Those eyes still get me everytime.
When we had Magnolia, we didn’t have photos. I remember Josh doing skin to skin with her in the recovery room and my heart took a picture. But these are so much better. I’m so grateful to have these moments captured.
I never saw my placenta with Magnolia. Clementine had a tiny placenta. My placenta encapsulater had a hard time even getting 90 pills.
Soon it was time for everyone to leave. Stacie and Monet left. Monet asked me if I wanted her to come back to take photos of Magnolia meeting her new sister. Who was still nameless at this time. I told her no, I knew I was a complete hot mess and she’d been with me for so long. But, I regret not saying yes. Because I barely remember those moments and I wished I had photos of that. I never did get to sleep, Clem was born around 10am in the morning. The whole day was full of people coming in and out of the room (not visitors, but hospital staff). Then that night Magnolia stayed at Mary’s house again. Josh and I tried to sleep, but Clementine was up often and we didn’t get much sleep. The next day we wanted to leave, but were told Clem’s bilirubin was borderline and we needed to stay and keep her under lights. I wish I would have gone home. I knew she was nursing, and I knew she was fine and would be ok. But we didn’t get to go home. So the next day, she was under lights, I was devastated. Josh only had about 1 week off work, we weren’t home as a family and now we had another night in the hospital. Magnolia had to come home from Mary’s, she had a cold and it was hard on her to be away. I told Josh to take her home and I’d stay by myself with Clementine. I cried all night, she wouldn’t keep the goggles on under those lights and I was worried about her eyes. It was another long night with no sleep. They checked her bili in the middle of the night, it was borderline still, and I texted and told Josh in tears. He said that he and M would be there in the morning. But he fell asleep and they didn’t come until mid morning. This was really hard on me, because I still had not slept. I just wanted to go home. Finally the doctor or someone said she was fine and we could go. I packed up so fast and we left asap! Denver Health was wonderful for the transfer, but I just needed my bed. They respected my wishes and gave us the best birth that we could have had in the hospital. The nurses and staff truly wanted me to VBAC and I appreciated that from them.
As we drove away, one of the songs from my birth playlist came on the radio and I burst into tears. It’s not the birth we wanted, I’ll always have some sadness around that, but it’s the birth that I was given and there is so much good that came from it. Magnolia know the hospital Clem was born in and she points it out everytime we drive past. I’m sad for her version of the birth story, but I’m grateful that we have a healthy baby and got to have a VBAC. I’ll never know why some women, myself included, have long and difficult births, while others push their babies out with a smile, it doesn’t seem fair sometimes. Birth and motherhood, the two hardest journey’s that I’ve taken, but the most rewarding by far.
Her birth video is here, if you’d like to see more. https://vimeo.com/143922948/aca25d206c
Thank you so much to Monet for these treasured gifts.