Oklahoma City Birth Photographer | A Healing Home VBAC

Kaitlin is a birth doula and her husband Brandon is a photographer who I have known since high school, when she first approached me about photographing the birth of their second baby, I was beyond thrilled. Unfortunately, my own due date was only two months before hers, and with my labor history I wasn't confident that I would be ready to commit to a birth so soon after my own. Luckily, the stars aligned perfectly and at the last minute we made it all come together and I could not have been more excited to share this wonderful day with the Burton's and their fabulous birth team.

Kaitlin has chosen to share the story of her rainbow baby's healing home birth from her own point of view. No one can describe a birth quite like a new mother <3

Homebirth Door Sign

The birth of my son Greyson, despite being one of the greatest days of my life, was also one that I was really unhappy with for a very long time. I was induced at 38 weeks 5 days, labored for 12 hours at an unheard of level of Pitocin, and was asked (whispered to) if I “wanted” a C-section after being “stuck” (these sarcastic quotations are giving me life right now) at 5cm for 5 hours. So naturally, I was like, “sign me up! This is the WORST!”.

The moments/days after my cesarean went something like this (in a nutshell):
-I was sent to recovery with my son in my arms.
-15 family members immediately came into the room to meet and hold our son.
-Greyson was sent to the NICU for what was essentially a booger in his nose, but was kept for 1 week after finding some other things that were wrong.
-I was unable to see Greyson for the entire week. I went home without my family. Why? Because the one time in my adult life that I got the flu shot, I caught the flu in the hospital.
-I got MRSA (a pretty serious and terrible infection) in my incision and was very sick from that as well.
-Breastfeeding was non existent. I had to pump and send my milk to him in the NICU. When we finally got home, I couldn’t get him to latch because HELLO! I don’t know what I’m doing! So I exclusively pumped for 3 months then my milk said, “bye girl!”.

Fast forward to 2 and a half years later. I’m now a birth doula, loving on pregnant mamas and teaching them that this is not how their birth has to go. I attend births for a living, and each one of those mamas inspires me. It doesn’t matter if she is screaming the entire time, if her birth plan doesn’t go the way she intended, whatever the situation, I leave every birth in awe of the strength I just witnessed.

So when I found out I was pregnant with this little one, our rainbow baby, I immediately knew how I wanted to meet him or her. I knew 2 things: 1. My baby was going to be born at home. 2. My baby was going to come out of my vagina.
This is the birth story of Oliver James Burton.

September 15th, 2016

Greyson was just getting over a terrible 5 day stomach virus that was going around, and by “getting over”, I do in fact mean that he had gone from vomiting 9 times a day to just one. Woohoo. It was total hell, and I was so glad that it was dying down. I was even happier to report that I had not caught this virus. I did NOT want to catch a stomach virus at 40 weeks pregnant and that cause me to go into labor. That would be the worst thing that could happen and I’m SO glad it didn’t.

Except for it did.

The virus had greeted me in the morning…then again an hour later….and so on for the entire day. My mom showed up around 3pm or 4pm to help me take care of Greyson while I was pretty much dead on the couch. I was vomiting every hour. I had a lot of pain in my stomach and then pain started coming to my back. I really tried to keep my eye out for contractions, but it was hard differentiating between the pain of the virus and the pain of contractions, which I didn’t realize had started around 4pm or 5pm. I finally realized around 6pm that I was having contractions, all of which were in my back. I would have flashbacks to Greyson’s birth and how the contractions pretty much felt the same and I would start to freak out. I’d snap myself back to reality and remind myself that this is a different story.

Oklahoma City Home Birth | Stephanie Ralls Photography

My husband Brandon is a photographer and had a full day of sessions that day. He got home around 7:30. I hadn’t been in contact with him because I was so physically ill I couldn’t move, I really couldn’t do anything. It wasn’t until he got home that he knew I was in labor (Sorry, babe.). I didn’t even see my phone until after I gave birth 2 days from now.

During this time my mom was in touch with our midwives and doulas, keeping them updated with everything. At this point, which is what is supposed to be early labor and totally manageable, my contractions were every 2 minutes lasting 30-45 seconds. They stayed this way for about 24 hours, and were honestly not that much different than my transition contractions. The pain was extremely hard to manage already. My birth team was convinced that this was false labor and that the dehydration from the virus was causing the contractions. Dawn, one of my midwives, came over to check on me and brought me Epsom salts for a bath and a shot of Zofran for my nausea. Everyone was fully convinced my labor was going to stop and that my body would get some much needed rest. Wrong. I did get maybe an hour of sleep, however after that my body was back at it. Contractions still coming every 2-3 minutes lasting 1 minute at this point.

September 16, 2016—My Due Date

Honestly, this entire day is a blur for me. I have no idea what I was doing in this 24 hour period other than getting through it one second at a time. The times that I think things happened probably didn’t happen at those times, so I ask that my birth team please disregard the times because they are probably wrong! Lol!

I was laboring in my bathroom, as I did for about 40% of my labor. I kept in my mind throughout my whole labor that I needed to be in productive positions because I needed to bring my baby down. I was constantly squatting, on all fours, or leaning over countertops with my legs bent while swaying my hips. I wanted to make every second count. I had a sort of routine. I’d do maybe 10-15 contractions leaning over my kitchen counter, then I would get on my knees and lean over a chair, then maybe hop in the bath for 30 minutes, lay down for 30 minutes, then get back up. Every time I would have to go to the bathroom I would stay on the toilet for a few contractions because all of us in the birth community know that’s the “dilation station”.

I labored like this until about 5:30am. At this point I wanted Lauren and Cara, my doulas, to come. I was desperate for any kind of help and I didn’t think I could handle it on my own anymore. I should also mention I probably felt this way because Brandon was sleeping (I wanted him to get some good sleep because of the very long day he had, and the very long day he was about to have), my mother in law was sleeping on our couch, and my mom had gone home to take a shower and came back to find me at a total loss for what to do, so I was laboring alone for awhile. That’s when she called Lauren. She also called Brandy because I wanted my cervix to be checked. My husband had woken up at this point and was helping me through each contraction. I had to be holding someone's hand through every single contraction or it was completely unmanageable in my mind. Brandy arrived first; she checked me and found me to be a 3 and only 50% effaced. I was immediately ready to give up. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. At that moment, Brandy told me that I was perfectly capable of having this baby. She told me I was strong and that I am doing everything right. She left me with the words, “today is your day”. I was ready to keep going after that. She gave me the strength I needed to keep going.

Lauren and Cara arrived to check on me after Brandy left. They stayed with me for a while, doing lots of double hip squeezes to help my back labor. Just their presence made me feel better. I knew it was still very early in the process (even though I’d been laboring hard already for almost 13 hours) so I didn’t expect them to stay; I had a long way to go. Lauren suggested I drink a glass of wine and try to get some sleep. My team was worried I was going to get too exhausted, and honestly, I already was. I felt depleted, and so so weak. I drank some wine and slept for about an hour.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was around 11am when Dawn came and administered some IV fluids to hydrate me. Everyone was hoping and pretty confident that this would stop my contractions. She also gave me Benadryl so that I could hopefully get a sufficient amount of sleep. They were very worried my body would suffer even more from exhaustion if the labor continued and I hadn't rested. However, none of that happened, my body was apparently very ready to have a baby. I didn’t get much of a break from this labor. Our baby wanted to meet us so very badly!

Fast forward to around 7pm. Hour 26 of labor. I was just going through the motions at this point. I wanted to be checked again just to see if anything was happening. My mom called Brandy and she was at my house in 20 minutes. She checked me and I believe I was 4cm and she could stretch me to a 5 so she did that. I think I was 75% effaced at this point? I was distraught, to say the least. To hear that I only progressed 1cm in 13 hours was very hard to grasp, considering how much pain I was in. I started to cry and, yet again, Brandy to the rescue with such sweet, encouraging words. "You CAN do this, your body is apparently ready to have a baby and you WILL have this baby in your arms soon". It was finally at this point that my birth team and I were convinced my labor was not going to be able to be stopped and that in the next day our baby would be here. I labored long and hard with my husband and 2 moms by my side. My dad also came to support me a for a couple hours. My husband was 100% my rock, holding my hand through every. single. contraction. And when he had to pee, it was my mom, my mother in law, or my dad holding my hand. I was so so so blessed to have this support system. I can’t thank them enough for the love they gave me through this experience.

Birth Affirmation Banner Flags

September 17th, 2016—Birth Day

**A HUGE thank you to Lauren for my birth notes or else I wouldn’t have any idea what happened on this day. The times are actually correct!**

My labor had finally progressed to the point where I knew it was time to call my birth team. It was 2:30am and I needed my doulas. I needed their help, knowledge, and simply their presence. They arrived around 3am and commenced the constant double hip squeezes to help my back. Brandy arrived around 3:30 am and checked me around 4am. I was 6cm and 100% effaced. Another pep talk. Thanks, Brandy. I’m so annoying. Stephanie, my birth photographer, arrived at 3:45am and all I could think was, “Thank God Brandon remembered to call her, I don’t know what I would have done”.

At 4:30am, my team began to set up my birth pool in the living room. At this point I was doing standing lunges through contractions with Brandon to try to move some cervix out of the way. I thought I was dying through these, but I knew that Lauren told me to do these for a reason and I knew how effective it was so I got through it and was VERY happy when it was over.

It’s now 6am and Dawn arrives. I am clearly in transition (AKA the toughest part of labor). I got into the birth pool around 6:30am and labored in the pool until 7:15am when I stood up and swayed with my husband through a few contractions. My water broke at 7:30am. I then got back into the pool and was desperate for this to end. I didn’t think the pain could get any worse, and then of course since my water broke I was reminded that it could get worse. Lauren suggested sitting with one leg up in a lunge position through my contractions to help bring baby down. It was awful, but I did it. I actually got to the point where I was doing that on my own because I was so desperate to hold my baby. At 8am, Lauren suggested I labor on the toilet for a while. I think I did 5 contractions there and then got back into the pool. Brandy checked me at 8:45am and found I was 9cm and baby was very low. I then began pushing around this time during my contractions. It felt both great and horrible to push. I loved that it was something different, but the pain in my back was at it’s peak for sure.

I pushed from this point on until 10:21am when our sweet baby boy, Oliver James Burton, was born. Brandy placed him into my hands and it took me a good minute to even realize what just happened. Brandon was crying. I was crying. Actually, most of the people in the room were crying. I couldn’t believe that this just happened; I just experienced an actual dream come true. I kept repeating, “I can’t believe I did it,” over and over. And just like that, the pain was gone completely. I was looking into the eyes of the sweetest boy in the world. I was in complete awe of how beautiful he looked in my arms, with his skin against mine; Something I wished I had with Greyson's birth so very badly. Everyone deserves this, I thought. It was the best feeling in the world.

20 minutes later we were still in the pool and I got him to latch on the first time I tried. More crying happening here. I got out of the pool around 11:20am and made my way to the bed, where Brandon and little Ollie were doing skin to skin. I climbed in bed with my little family and I was the happiest girl in the world. After Oliver was born, my dad started making a huge breakfast for everyone that I’m sure they were all super ready and thankful for. I know I was. I was soooooo ready to eat. Everyone hung out and ate while we got to know our little boy.

Brandy did Ollie’s newborn exam at 12:30pm. I believe the weight portion went a little something like this:

Brandy looking at the scale: “No fucking way. It says 10 pounds 10 ounces”.

Dawn: “Use the other one!”

Brandy confirms that I did in fact just birth a 10 pound 10 ounce, 22 ¾ inch long baby. We are all in total disbelief. It was awesome.

So that’s it. That’s how our little Ollie James came into this world. I have to say, it did NOT go as planned. Obviously. But let me tell you something, it was the absolute best experience of my life. I feel so healed with this birth. I feel like a different woman, doula, and person. It changed me and I feel like I can do anything. I had my baby at home, where the people surrounding me never once made me feel like a patient, only a person and a mother. Thank you to my birth team and my family who held me in love the entire time. You all are the reason I was able to do this. This day is forever cherished. Welcome to the world, Oliver. You were surrounded by so much love the day we met you, and even more now.

Birth Team

Hospital Bag Must Haves

When packing for the hospital, it's important to separate your list into immediate necessities, and things that can wait. Anything immediate should go into one bag which can be brought in when you arrive at the hospital. Things that can wait should be left in the car, so you aren't attempting to haul in several bags while managing contractions and checking in with the front desk.

The Necessities

  • A folder with copies of your birth plan, contact list, insurance information, and any hospital paperwork (unless you've preregistered).
  • Baby book - Most books will have a page for baby's footprints. If it's removable, add it to your folder. If not, bring your book. Most nurses are happy to do a second set of prints for you after the birth certificate has been completed
  • Hospital rooms tend to be very cold, dry, and not very homey. Because laboring women get pretty hot, and prefer the air to be turned down, consider packing a warm shirt for dad, especially if he tends to be cold natured. For your own comfort pack warm socks, chap stick, throat lozenges, and a pillow to stay as comfortable as possible. Both physical and mental comfort is important during labor. Many moms choose to bring along other things to give their room a more home like atmosphere such as electric tea lights, birth affirmation banners, and essential oil diffusers.
  • Slippers and a robe to go over your laboring clothes/hospital gown if you decide to walk the halls. Easily removed nursing bra - if you haven't already ditched the stiff underwire bra, it's likely you'll want to when you're in labor or soon after.
  • Hair ties/Headband/Brush
  • Camera and backup batteries/charger/memory cards
  • Snacks - high protein snacks are ideal - if you're anything like me (and most of my clients!), by the time baby is born, the hospital cafeteria is closed and you're starving! Sure, dad can run out and pick something up, but a good snack is nice to have on hand.
  • Cash/change to use at the vending machines for when the delicious snacks you brought don't sound nearly as appetizing as a bag of chips.

Things to bring, but leave in the car

  • Chargers for electronics
  • Comfortable clothes with easy access for nursing - think maxi dress/skirt, yoga pants/leggings, and deep v-necks/button up tops, as well as nursing bras and/or tanks.
  • Pajamas and a change of clothes for Dad
  • Toiletries for Mom and Dad as well as flip flops that can be worn in the shower.
  • A pillow for Dad.
  • Going home outfits for Mom, Dad, and baby. This is important: Moms, don't be a hero - leave the pre-pregnancy jeans at home and bring something comfortable! For baby I highly recommend sticking with something simple like cotton pajamas. It's also a great idea to bring two sizes, just in case.
  • Season appropriate blanket for baby
  • Carseat - It's a great idea to have it installed in your car and checked by a CPST a few weeks before your due date so Dad isn't stress reading through the manual while you're in labor trying to figure out what the heck a LATCH system is.

Oklahoma City Birth Photographer | OU Women's Center | Jessica's VBA2C

Jessica is the best friend of my best friend, so by transient properties of friendship, there was no question in whether I would photograph her birth. Courtney asked me a week before Jessica's due date if I could be her backup in case she couldn't make it to the birth for some reason. When Jessica went past her due date the same week Courtney's husband had an out of town business trip, I was on standby. Courtney messaged me just before 7am letting me know Jessica was in beginning stages labor and asking if I could be there once she was in active labor.

The next thing I heard from anyone was at 8:55. Jessica's husband contacted me with: "She's nearly complete, and baby is moving down, can you come?" Um YES!

I talked to Courtney on my way to OU letting her know I wasn't sure I would make it in time. I walked in the room at 9:18, Jessica began pushing at 9:35, and baby was out at 9:43.

From here, Jessica is going to tell her birth story in it's entirety. It's long, but it's well worth the read. <3

                When I was growing up and most of my friends were envisioning their weddings, I was envisioning my births.  My idea of the “perfect birth” was mostly gleaned from everything I’d seen in television and movies.  My water suddenly breaking, telling my husband, “honey, it’s time”, going to hospital with fanfare, and having the baby in a matter of minutes upon arrival.

                The second I saw, “PREGNANT” pop up on the EPT with my first child I thought, “it’s game time.”  I had dreamed about this my entire life…and it was going to happen in nine months.  I got to my 40 week appointment and was frustrated that nothing was happening.  My doctor at the time offered induction and I took it.  I was taking my prerequisites for the respiratory program and I didn’t want to miss finals.  Looking back, being the hospital having a baby was probably a foolproof excuse, but I digress.  My doctor assured me that she did not see a c-section in my future and that the induction would go smoothly.  Long story short….it didn’t.  I ended up flat on my back in a cold operating room racking my brain trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.  At my postpartum follow-up I asked about a VBAC.  She said she would transfer me to a colleague of hers at another facility, but it was a possibility.

                Fast forward four and a half years I am pregnant again. I had been researching VBAC since my last birth.  I read and watched everything I could get my hands on.  I talked to my mother, who VBAC’d a 10lb baby in the 80s.  I had mentioned that I wanted a VBAC to my doctor at EVERY annual well woman exam when the subject of having another child was breached.  I show up to my first prenatal appointment, mention the VBAC transfer and am immediately shut down.  “Yeah, that’s not a good idea.” She says.  She tells me all of the risks and dangers (none of the benefits) and terrifies my husband in the process.  I left her office for the last time that day.  I found a new doctor that was very supportive and he was able to put my husband at ease as well.  I did everything I could to facilitate the VBAC.  I drank red raspberry leaf tea, constantly monitored my posture and position, sat only on a birth ball after 30 weeks, hired a doula...the list goes on and on.  I was very confident that everything was going to work.  Due date came and went...again.  I was more educated this time.  I knew going "over" was normal.  At this point I started having contractions about every 20 minutes.  They would get closer together...then farther apart...then closer together.  It was maddening. The 41 week mark rolls by and I was still having the same contractions.  At this time I learned that what I was experiencing was called "prodromal labor". I had started my leave from work at 40 weeks because it was too difficult to keep going.  I hated that I was wasting my leave without a baby.  After many discussions with my doctor we came to decision to induce at 41w6d.  Long story short, after 36 hours of hard, pitocin induced contractions I stalled at 9.5cm. He was OP ("sunny side up") and not budging. I found myself lying in a cold operating room...again. Recovering from that TOLAC/CBAC awas extremely difficult.  I could barely talk about it without crying and there were many nights when my husband just had to hold me and listen to me sob for hours.  Twice now I had seen my dream fall apart.  I honestly didn't know if I could try again, or that I would. 

             I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again two and half years after my second son was born.  At this point I had heard through the grapevine that my doctor had done VBA2Cs, but I honestly didn't know if I could emotionally tackle another birth. We discussed it at my first appointment and he was very supportive of me trying again, but did mention that induction was not an option this time.  I would have to do this on my own.  This was our last child. This was my last shot.  My confidence was shattered, but I did everything in my power to try to make it happen.  Everything I did with my second pregnancy plus chiropractic care with a Webster certified doctor.  I also hired a doula named Emily that was very well versed in VBACs. My OB was amazing and never mentioned scheduling a c-section and always treated me like a "normal" pregnant woman. He didn't look at me like I had "TWO CESAREANS" stamped on my forehead.  The closer my due date approached, the more apprehensive I became. I asked my husband on a daily basis, "What if I can't do this?" "What if I never go into labor on my own?"  Due date came and went...again.  I knew this would happen.  I scheduled myself to work two weeks past my due date so I wouldn't feel pressured to do a c-section so I could have more leave with the baby.  I go in to my 40 week appointment on a Tuesday and he does a cervical check.  I was 1cm and not effaced.  He remains upbeat and tells me that it was very reasonable to believe that I would deliver vaginally, but next week it was going to be time to start discussing "options".  He scheduled me to have an non stress test the next week with another physician because he was going to be out of town.  I left that appointment completely deflated.  I cried for probably fifteen minutes in the car because I didn't trust myself to drive.  I messaged back and forth with Emily and she was able to calm me down.  She reassured me that my body was capable and it was just going to take time. 

            I had been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions for the last several weeks.  Nothing regular or consistent so I never got too excited.  The morning after my appointment the contractions I was having seemed more regular than normal, about every 10-12 minutes. I also noticed they were a bit stronger.  I also started losing pieces of my mucus plug and it was blood tinged.  "Is this it?" "What's happening?"  Never having gone into labor on my own before I had no idea what to look for and I had no idea what it felt like.  I had a chiropractor appointment that morning and when I went my doctor said, "You smell like you're in labor, are you having contractions?".  He massaged some pressure points to help move things along and told me to call and schedule an appointment after delivery.  I was trying not to get too excited, but it was hard not to.  I continued to have contractions throughout the evening and into the night.  I slept okay, but was woken up by the contractions frequently.  Thursday morning there wasn't much change.  They were still 10-12 minutes, a little stronger but not much.  I was continuing to lose my plug and I was starting to get frustrated and confused.  Emily suggested pumping on my electric breast pump to see if that would get things going a little faster.  I did it and it made the contractions stronger for a little while, but then they went back to where they were.  I was scheduled to go to work the next morning.  I was really hoping that labor would pick up so I wouldn't have to go in, but by that night I could tell that it just wasn't happening.  I slept terribly because of the contractions and got up for work at 5:30 am.  Throughout the morning the contractions picked up in frequency and intensity.  I felt awful.  Around 2:00 p.m. I started getting very nauseated and my boss sent me home.  I felt guilty for leaving, but also relieved.  After I got home I tried to rest, but soon my older boys were home and that became impossible.  I had to stop every once in a while to breathe through a contraction, but it wasn't every one so I just chalked it up to more prodromal labor.  I did more inversion exercises and some stretches that Emily showed me.  I took a bath and tried to sleep.  I didn't sleep very well that night either because the contractions would wake me up every so often.  Saturday was the annual Czech Festival in the town we live in.  We decided to go and take the boys so we could have one last "family of four" outing and maybe the walking would get kick my labor up.  I also had been craving funnel cakes for the last two months and once I found out there were funnel cake stands there I HAD to go!  That evening the contractions were still the same frequency, same intensity.  I felt like I was going insane. Emily came over and brought a special hot chocolate recipe that came from her grandmother in law who was a baby catcher in Mexico.  I drank a cup,  took another bath that night and headed off to another night of restless sleep.  Sunday, we got up and nothing really had changed.  I drank another cup of the special hot chocolate.  Around 5 o'clock that evening something shifted.  The contractions spaced out more, about 16-20 minutes, but they were much stronger.  I had gotten so used to having them they had become more of an annoyance, but these contractions demanded attention.  I noticed that instead of just waiting for them to pass, I was wishing for them to pass and I would breathe a huge sigh of relief when they were over.  I slept even worse that night due to the strength of the contractions.  I was constantly reaching over and grabbing my husband's hand to alert him to apply counter pressure to my back during them.  

        My NST was scheduled for Monday morning.  My mom offered to go with me because James had to work and I didn't want to be there by myself, especially with a doctor that I had never met.  I called her that morning and told her what was going on and added that I didn't think I could drive myself to the appointment; and asked if she could pick me up.  The contractions at this point were 6-7 minutes apart.  We showed up to the appointment and I was hooked up to the monitors. Contractions were 6-7 minutes apart and baby was tolerating everything well.  The doctor comes in all smiles and says everything looks great and she is going to check me to see if we needed to head to L&D.  She goes to check me and asks me prop my bottom up with my fists.  Ugh, I know what this means; my cervix is still posterior.  She asks what I was the week before and then says, "Well, you're still about a one and 30% effaced:.  Then her attitude completely shifted.  She started asking me if I had a "delivery date" (aka c-section) set.  When I told her no she made a face and sighed.  She asked me when my next appointment was and what my doctor's plan was.  When I said, "he's just waiting and seeing what happens" she said that she wished she had better news for me and walked out.  I was in shock and completely disheartened.  Didn't she see that I was having regular contractions?  Didn't she watch me breathing through them?  She said baby was fine.  If he was fine why were we in such a rush to schedule something, especially when it was clear my body was doing something?  I barely spoke to my mom on the way home except to voice my frustration that the contractions I was having apparently weren't doing anything.  I just kept saying, "why is this so easy for some people?"  "What is wrong with my body?  I'm doing everything I can.  WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?"  She dropped me off in tears at home and said she wanted to stay with me, but I told her to go because I really just wanted to be left alone.  I talked to Emily over the phone.  She reassured me that she believed this was the real deal and not to let the doctor's words affect me.  She also said I needed to send the boys somewhere to stay the night because I needed to be able to focus on laboring.  My mom came to pick up the boys around 5 that evening and James came home from work about 6.  I had all the lights off and was cranking my labor playlist.  The contractions were picking up in intensity, but not getting closer together.  James was helping apply counter pressure and allowing me to hang on him while swaying during contractions.  I took another bath and James helped me with some stretches.  Around 12:30 a.m. I was starting to get nauseated and I felt like I was crawling out of my skin.  I kept grabbing my hair and wanting to pull it out.  I told James I thought it was time to call Emily.  While he was talking to her I had a contraction.  She spoke to me after it was over and said that it sounded really intense that she thought we should meet her at the hospital.

         We got packed up and arrived at the hospital around 1:10 am.  During the drive over my contractions got closer together, around 4-5 minutes apart.  I stood in the dark atrium with tears in my eyes from the contractions while James parked the car.  I had to moan through a few contractions while I waited.  I remember my voice echoed through the huge room.  It was just me and the security guard.  I wondered how many times he'd witnessed a sight like this.  Normally making that much noise would have made me embarrassed, but I didn't care.  Emily arrived at 1:20 and I was SO relieved to see her.  We made it up to Triage, got put on the monitors and the nurse checked me.  Again, she asked me to prop myself up.  I looked at Emily and she nodded.  I never confirmed this with her, but it was like we had one of the those telepathic conversations (a la How I Met Your Mother).  My look said, "crap, I'm still posterior," and her nod said, "I know, it's okay".  The nurse told me I was 3 cm and 50% effaced.  Some progress so that gave me a little hope.  They said that they would recheck me in an hour or so and I could either stay in the triage room or walk around.  I chose to walk around.  Emily said, "you're going to hate me, but we're going to the stairs."  We started heading that direction and my contractions started coming every 2-3 minutes.  Emily had a piece of cloth and through every contraction we were doing lift and tuck exercises from Spinning Babies.  I was moving pretty slow and having to stop for contractions every 4-5 steps or so.  "We're not going to make it to the stairs," Emily said.  I apologized, but she just smiled and said, "It's okay. You're doing great!".  We made it to the end of the hallway and I felt like I couldn't walk anymore.  I was exhausted from not sleeping for nearly a week and the constant contractions.  James went to get a wheelchair and I sheepishly asked Emily, "are you going to think I'm a horrible person if I ask for an epidural?".  She immediately and genuinely said, "no, not at all."  We wheeled back to triage and was rechecked.  Still had to prop myself up, still 3 cm, still 50% effaced.  The nurse said she was going to speak to the doctors and come back.  I was starting to panic.  Why wasn't anything changing?  Emily and James were able to talk me down.  Emily assured me that my body was working and that I was doing great.  About 5 minutes later a resident walked in and announced, "We're going to go ahead and admit and at this time because of your previous medical history; and we recommend an immediate c-section."  I was bewildered.  All I could say was "What?".  She went on to say, "If you want to continue trying for a vaginal delivery, it's up to you.  You've signed all the consent forms, you know the risks, would you like to continue?"  I looked up at Emily who had her eyes fixed and her brow furrowed at the resident.  Her strong face gave me the courage to say, "Yes".  The doctor said, "fine, we need to do an ultrasound to make sure baby is head down and get your IV then we'll get you to a room."  It took 5 attempts to get my IV placed and while the nurses were working on that three different residents had to do the ultrasound to confirm his position.  I had to stay flat on my back while they were doing the ultrasounds and my contractions were starting to come on top of each other.  While they were doing the ultrasounds they kept saying things like, "If he's breach that's a game changer.  You know that, right?".  He had never been breach before.  I was confused and frustrated that they were having such a hard time getting it.  Every time they had to switch doctors Emily would say, "You're doing great.  Don't pay any attention to these doctors who clearly don't like VBACs.  I hate the way they're talking to you."  They finally confirmed head placement and moved me into a room around 4:45 a.m.  I was sitting on the edge of the bed about ten minutes after I arrived and my water broke during a contraction.  They noted that there was meconium in the fluid. My nurse asked if I was considering an epidural and I said I was.  She then said, "Well, we recommend you get one because you're a VBAC and if we have to do a c-section we will put you to sleep."  She was very abrasive and made me feel uncomfortable. I was leaning forward during the contractions and the monitor would move and start reading my heart rate instead of the baby's.  This was very frustrating to my nurse and about five minutes after my water broke I had all three residents from earlier and my nurse standing in front of me wanting me to give consent for an internal monitor.  I didn't want internal monitors and they wouldn't leave it alone.  They kept saying things like, "we're not trying to force you, but you really need to consider the safety and health of your baby."  James spoke up and said, "the language that you're using is very threatening and it actually does sound like you're trying to force her".  They argued a little more and then Emily finally asked everyone to step out so we could talk it over among ourselves. Because of all the IV/ultrasound trouble we hadn't been left alone for over two hours.  We discussed everything and ultimately decided that I needed to rest and be left alone and the best way to do that would be to get the epidural.  Also, they would be able to get a better tracing on the external monitors because I wouldn't be moving as much.  We called them back in and told them what we decided.  They didn't like it, but shrugged their shoulders and left.  The epidural was placed at 5:45 a.m.  I was able to relax for the first time in nearly six days.  I kept asking, "Am I too weak for doing this?" "Do you think I'm a wimp?"  James and Emily did not hesitate when they said no. 

         James went to the car and got our bag, Emily started setting up the room to make it more "homey" and she positioned me on a peanut ball to help get baby in a good position.  At 6:45 my nurse came in to place a urinary catheter and check my cervix.  She had kind of a confused face while she was checking me and taking a really long time.  I asked her if I needed to prop myself up.  She kind of scoffed and said, "no".  "Then what's taking so long?" I thought.  After what felt like several minutes she said, "I'm going to call you an eight to a nine, but I'll put an eight in your chart."  "CENTIMETERS?!" was my response.  I was in complete disbelief.  It was at that moment I actually believed it was going to happen.  Shift change happened at seven and my new nurse was so much better.  She came in while Emily was trying to re-position me on the peanut and said, "you read my mind!".  The attending physician covering for my doctor came in and introduced herself.  She said I looked great, baby looked fantastic and she was very excited for the VBAC.  She also had a British accent which I thought was super cool.  My nurse came in to check me around 8:30 am and said I was nearly at a 10 and had a small lip left on the right side.  She and Emily helped re-position me again and we called the photographer.  At almost 9:00 she came back in to check me and announced that I was complete and baby was at +2 station and in occiput anterior position.  My new team of OB residents came in and asked for the delivery table to be set up and to have the pediatric team be ready because of the meconium. They said they were going to allow me to labor down a little more before pushing.  They sat me up very high in the bed.  I remember looking at James and saying, "I'm going to do this.  This is going to happen."  The photographer, Stephanie, arrived at 9:20.  We chatted a little bit and Emily was also prepping me for pushing.  She had said before that because I had never pushed before I would push like a first time mom and not to get discouraged if it took a little longer. 


              At 9:30 the residents came in because baby was having some decells during contractions.  He would recover quickly, but it was still concerning.  The residents called in the attending doctor.  The doc I met earlier that morning was unavailable but this new doctor was just as amazing and encouraging.  They called the peds team and had them in the room.  They placed some oxygen on my face to help with his heart rate and told me it was time to start pushing.  I started pushing at 9:35.  I didn't really know what I was doing, but everyone kept telling me I was doing a great job so I tried my best to keep it up.  Everyone was so excited and cheerleading me on.  At 9:43 am Westley Jack was born!  The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, which attributed to the decells at the end of labor. They had to take him immediately to the warmer to look him over and make sure that he hadn't aspirated any meconium.  The attending OB congratulated me and told me that we would be reunited soon.  She also informed me that I had a first degree tear and that it only required one quick stitch.  About fourteen minutes later baby Westley was brought back to me.  I was in shock!  I couldn't believe that I'd done it!  It was such a whirlwind.

         Recovery this time around has been so much easier.  I've also learned a few things about myself.  I learned that I am strong.  There is a small part of me that regrets getting that epidural, but another part of me that knows it was the right thing to do.  It allowed me to be fully present during the birth and enjoy it.  It allowed me to be able to have the voice to stand up for myself when the staff was trying to push me into interventions I didn't want. I learned that my body wasn't "broken", but I also learned that it never was to begin with.  I've often heard people talk about their bodies as "broken" if they couldn't have the birth they desired.  I think my doula Emily put it best when she said during our many text messaging sessions during my days of prodromal labor.  She said, "Your story is unique."  I think that goes for every woman.  No one's body is "broken",  everyone is unique.  We're not going to follow the same exact pattern and we should never expect ourselves to do so, even when modern medicine tries to dictate that we do.  Every birth is special.  It's the beginning of a new life.  It's sacred and whether it is surgical, natural, medicated, or VBAC it should be treated as such and celebrated in the biggest way possible.