As told by Kristin:
January 2 2007, I gave birth via planned caesaren of our first child, Fiona. She had been breech the entire pregnancy and after many attempts to flip her, the midwives I had been seeing transferred my care to an OB. I was told by him that vaginal birth would not be safe (or allowed in their hospital) and if I went into labor then my husband would not be allowed in the OR. So we scheduled my C-section for 39 weeks. I was crushed and cried for days. I had prepared for a natural birth and without even the option to go into labor I felt like I had been robbed of a rite of passage into motherhood. Fiona was born healthy and the whole experience went as smoothly as it could. While it was not the birth I had envisioned, I fell in love deeply with her and with being a mother.
When we started planning for a second child I knew I HAD to experience labor and birth. I also knew my best chances to have a successful VBAC would be at home. Fortunately, I live in a community where I have many friends who have had homebirths and even HBACs, so I felt incredibly supported. A positive pregnancy test in August 2012 was exciting for many reasons of course, but at the top of my list was the possibility of an HBAC. After exploring local options I felt even more excited when I “clicked” with my midwife Zaina.
Fast forward to April 9 2013, my EDD. Contractions start and I am thrilled! Finally I get to feel labor! I was suffering horrible allergies though and was a little panicked that I wouldn’t be successful delivering at home. Again, “my tribe” comes to my rescue with encouragement and support. Throughout my pregnancy I had surrounded myself with women (and even some men!) who felt the value of birth. These friends helped me mourn and work through the birth I had lost. They didn’t tell me “at least you have a healthy baby,” but validated my feelings of loss over having had a c-section. Equally as important, they were my sounding boards when I had decisions to make, fears and questions. I truly had a birth team emotionally and physically. Even now I can not delete the texts and messages that were sent back and forth during labor. I cherish the love I felt from my birthing goddess friends.
The 9th and 10th came and went. Contractions consistently 20 minutes apart. My hips and legs ached. Friends came to offer comfort and my contractions would fizzle out. I don’t even remember how many times my friend Bergen drove the hour out to my house. Fiona was such a trooper on these days since I really wasn’t very available to her. I was not sleeping well at night between the contactions and allergies and starting to wonder why in the heck I had ever wanted to experience labor!
On the 11th Bergen and Karen came to offer help. My husband, Lonnie, had also taken that day off of work. Zaina came by for my prenatal and I asked her to check me. She didn’t tell me how dilated I was but did say I was making good progress and to try and rest between contractions. I later found out she had told Lonnie that I was 3cm. Lonnie took Fiona out of the house and after enjoying a sushi lunch with Bergen and Karen, I decided to go and try to rest. Lonnie came home not long after, so Karen took Fiona out so that we could have some peace and quiet. Lonnie enjoyed a much needed nap but I could not sleep. The contractions were STILL steadily 20 minutes apart and they hurt much worse when I was laying down.
After Lonnie put Fiona to bed I figured it would be another long night of no sleep so indulged in a glass of wine to help me relax. It was really calming to have the darkened house and some time alone with Lonnie. The past few days had been filled with excitement and visitors so we really needed these moments to reconnect and chat. My birthing ball and shower were becoming my best friends as I was just going back and forth between the two. Our shower has a seat in it so I would sit bent over and just let the water pound on my back. When a contraction would come I would lean into them or get down on my knees and lean my head on the seat. The rhythmic hot water stream really helped me to zone out and I feel aided in my progressing. It was also helpful zoning out on the T.V. It was actually during Conan that I realized my contractions were much closer together and more intense. Lonnie started keeping track of them and around midnight made the calls to Zaina, Karen and Bergen.
I couldn’t sit still. Laying hurt. Sitting hurt. Well, everything hurt. Rocking, leaning, swaying and squatting helped. I was also becoming much more vocal. The pain was becoming much more than I was prepared for. I couldn’t get myself to visualize through the pain and felt like my contractions were “owning me.” I remember telling Lonnie that I wanted to feel in control of them but I felt like they were in control of me. I needed his encouragement through them. Lonnie would remind me that I could do it and that I was bigger than the pain I felt. Zaina helped me find “my voice” and positions that felt better.
I had taken so many showers the hot water was gone so we had to wait to fill up the birth pool. Most of that time I spent either on my knees leaning my upper body on my birth ball or standing and hanging off of Lonnie. Moving, swaying and rocking during the rushes really helped me find a use of the energy I was feeling.
Finally the hot water was back and Lonnie filled the pool. The hot water was so soothing. I really enjoyed it for awhile but it didn’t “take away the pain” like I was wishing. Fiona and I had made an “affirmation wall” and reading the words on it couldn’t have come at a better time. I focused on certain lines and words during contractions. Friends had sent me inspirational gifts, pictures, stories and poems that I also read in between and felt uplifted and surrounded by their love. I didn’t feel like I could get a very good grip or leverage while standing or squatting in the pool, so decided to get out. I couldn’t figure out where I wanted to be and am so thankful for Zaina making suggestions of where and how to try. I felt like I made a circle of our upstairs between the bed, the toilet and the pool. Nothing felt right. I never felt scared but I did feel helpless.
Our baby’s head was very engaged and I was feeling really intense pressure. I kept thinking that I needed to use the bathroom but sitting on the toilet was more than I could handle. I started feeling a very strong urge to push. This was probably the most difficult part of the whole experience. Everything inside of me begged to push but I knew if I did before I was fully dilated that it would cause more problems. Talk about a lesson in self control!!!
I still just didn’t feel “right” anywhere upstairs so decided I wanted to go downstairs. Looking back I am so thankful that I felt this urge because I believe walking down those stairs really sped things up by pushing baby down further. I ended up on my hands and knees in our living room and had “the big mama” contraction. It felt like it was never going to end and I remember thinking to myself that surely it was impossible to die from pain. I was really loud. Lonnie jokes that it sounded like Satan coming out of me! My water broke and I threw up (gosh did that feel good!) My friend Shanna, who was Zaina’s assistant, arrived. Or maybe she got there sooner? I must have been in transition at this point because everything became very foggy like I was in a dream. People were talking and gathering things and it felt like I was not really there. I remember Shanna talking to me and kept thinking that I wanted to be friendly with her but couldn’t. (Although when she sneezed I did manage to say “bless you.”) I was so focused inward at this point a parade of all my best friends could have been there and I wouldn’t have noticed.
I didn’t like being on my hands and knees anymore and wanted to stand. I also wanted to push sooooo bad. It hurt even worse to hold back. I still had ” a little lip” and felt like I was going to cry. Actually I think I did. Zaina told me to hang in there for 2 more contractions. Ah, a goal! During all of this I was hanging on Lonnie. He was just like a big tree for me to lean on. His neck and shoulders hurt for days afterwards.
When I was given the O.K. to push it was like the heavens opened up and angels were singing. It may sound strange that pushing a baby out would feel good, but oh my goodness it did! Finally, something I could put the pain and energy towards! I loved pushing and only remember it hurting when I tore alittle. I can’t remember exactly how long I pushed but it felt like it went by really quickly. In between contractions I would completely go limp and Lonnie would hold me up while I gained strength for the next push.
Karen had run upstairs just before the baby started to crown to get Fiona out of bed. She had been very excited the whole pregnancy about seeing her baby sister or brother be born and had become quite a big fan of watching youtube homebirth videos. She still asks to watch them.
So here I was, hanging on Lonnie. One foot propped up on our ottoman. Squatting into the pushes. Fiona sitting in our “big chair” watching. Our family of 3 becoming a family of 4. At 6:39am on Friday April 12 2013 I gave birth in the living room of our home. Zaina caught our baby and told us to reach down and grab her. I told Lonnie to help me, that I was afraid I would drop her. I was shaking from the adrenaline. Fiona announced that it was a sister. I sat down and met this new person. I remember thinking ” I did it. I actually did it.”
Everything from that point was sort of in slow motion. Karen told me to reach down and feel the blood pulsing in the cord. It was a surreal moment to feel and know that all this blood from my body was passing into this new little body.
It took us a week to decide, but we gave our sweet new baby the name Iris Adela Potts. Adele is my grandmothers name who was named after her Aunt Adela. Fiona’s middle name is Rose so she had requested her sister be given a flower name too. Iris was decided on because while in labor it had starting storming until right before she was born. Iris is the goddess of the rainbow. Iris is an amazing addition to our lives and I am more and more in love with her little soul every day.
I’ve been asked if labor and childbirth are what I had thought they would be and if I am glad I did it at home. It hurt way more than I could have imagined. Had I been in a hospital I would have begged for medication. I would have taken any drug offered! Which makes me even more thankful that I was at home where that was not an option. I was forced to tap into myself. I begged for help during the most intense contractions, and while my birth team could certainly assist me, I was the only one who could ultimately get me through. Lonnie was “my drug”. He was my rock. It brought us closer together than I could have imagined. I have so much new love and respect for him and his strength.
Having had a completely unnatural, intervened, hospital birth via C-section and a homebirth there is no comparison. I love Fiona and am thankful she was born into our lives and know I made the best choice I knew at the time for my family. I have finally made peace with it and am thankful for what the experience taught me. The unmedicated home experience, however, was as raw, real and beautiful as life gets. It has shown me how amazing my body is. I did it. With the help of my wonderful midwife and birth team, I learned how strong I really could be. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to birth the way my body needed to and to have been surrounded by people who believed in my body and my baby. Just because I had had a C-section my body wasn’t broken and my birth team knew that, even when I doubted it.
I told Lonnie we can never get rid of the ottoman I had my leg propped up on. I walk past “the area” in our living where Iris was born and the memories of her birth come flooding back. It feels so good to finally write them down and share them.
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