Anna and Shaun's first baby was born via cesarean in Selma. Ca, but they had little Emma Faith here in Salinas. Lots of pictures, you know I love pictures! Anna is now the leader of Monterey County's local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter which meets the first Thursday of every month. Anna was also my photographer at my third birth.
My first child, Brennan, was born via cesarean section after a very long labor and 2.5 hours of pushing. It was a pretty upsetting experience for my husband, Shaun, a chiropractor, and I after we had spent our entire pregnancy preparing for a natural birth. Soon after my daughter was born in February 2008 I began vigorously researching vaginal birth after cesarean and discovered many things that could help me to avoid a cesarean a second time around; one of those things being to have a home birth. It took over a year for us to conceive our second child, but when we did, right away we knew things were going to be different.
Immediately I began interviewing local home birth midwives and after one meeting, Shaun and I knew that we’d found the woman who was going to help us have our home birth; her name was Maggie. Maggie has been a midwife for over 35 years and was a pivotal part of the movement that legalized midwifery in the state of California. She’s a wise woman and recognized as such in the community and all over the world; she’s even a published author. I knew that I was in good hands in choosing her to be my midwife and felt that the Lord had brought us to her area to aid us in the birth of our next child. Maggie also practices the art of apprenticeship and we felt equally as confident in her apprentice, Carol. They seemed a perfect fit for us.
During my pregnancy, everything went off without a hitch. We decided to opt out of all testing and didn’t use Doppler or ultrasound. We first heard our baby’s heartbeat at our 20-week appointment with a fetoscope and the midwives always palpated my belly to find the position of the baby. It was a wonderfully relaxing pregnancy in which my husband, our midwives, and I trusted that my body would do what it was made to do without any interference, and it did.
At 40 weeks 2 days gestation, January 27th, I had my very first contraction at 9:30 p.m. These continued all night and were irregular, but were strong enough to wake me up at times. I knew then that this was really “it,” but it could be a while based on my experience with my first child. These contractions continued, but were still irregular for most of the day.
Just over twenty-four hours later my contractions started to regulate and were consistently about 9 minutes apart. I knew at this point that I’d better try and get some sleep, but I figured it would still be a while before the contractions were close enough to really keep me from sleeping. It was a good thing I went to bed when I did because I was up again a few hours later.
At about 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 29th, I was awakened by some pretty strong contractions and was shocked to find out that they were only about 5 minutes apart and were lasting for over a minute. Again, I figured I still had lots of time so I tried to get some more sleep, but I couldn’t so I decided to get up and listen to my Hypnobabies birthing affirmations and prepare myself for the day ahead.
I had bloody show for the first time at about 4:00 a.m. and called Maggie at 5:30 a.m. to let her know that things were happening, but told her that she didn’t need to come just yet because I felt we were a ways off and I was doing okay. She told me to call her back in an hour and let her know how things were progressing. I also called my friend, Andrea, who was going to be coming to photograph/videotape the birth for us.
There was more bloody show at 6:20 a.m. and that’s when I lost my mucous plug as well. I called Maggie again at 6:55 a.m. to let her know that my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and lasting for over a minute. I asked her and Carol to come and she said they would be over around 8:00 a.m. unless I needed them sooner.
Around 8:00 a.m. Maggie and Carol arrived, and then shortly after, Andrea arrived as well. With everyone present, I felt I could really relax and focus on allowing my body to do its work and open up to allow my baby down. The apartment was bustling with excitement and preparation for the birth. I was breathing through contractions in bed while everyone was preparing the birth pool, getting out supplies, making coffee, and watching the morning news. I continued to listen to my birthing affirmations and relax my body.
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., I asked Maggie and Carol if they could do a vaginal exam to see how far I’d progressed. (This was the very first vaginal exam I’d had throughout my entire pregnancy.) I was happily surprised to find out that I was 4-5 cm and I couldn’t believe how quickly things were progressing!
I continued to “ohhh” and “ahhh” through contractions (the tonal sounds are supposed to help open the cervix up) and swivel my hips to try and work the baby down. Around 10:30 a.m., I asked for another exam because I felt like things were really getting intense. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was about 7 cm and my bag of waters was bulging with each contraction.
Around 12:30 p.m., I was dilated to 8 cm and decided to have my water bag broken to try and speed things up. Afterward, I immediately noticed my contractions were stronger and I got into the birthing tub to see if it would make things more comfortable. The pool ended up not feeling as nice as I had expected, partly because I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit in it, and I didn’t stay in very long. It was only about an hour later when my body started involuntarily pushing a little bit.
The midwives suggested that I try a couple of “test pushes” to see if it brought the baby down anymore. So I leaned over the side of the birth pool and pushed with some contractions while Carol checked to see if the baby’s head was coming down. With the exam, we found out that I was almost complete (10 cm), but had a “lip” to my cervix still so Carol tried to hold it back while I pushed. It took an hour-and-a-half for the lip to disappear. This, after I tried all sorts of pushing positions: standing, squatting with support from Shaun, sitting on the toilet, on my hands and knees, side-lying, lying on my back, and squatting while hanging from the knobs on my bedroom door.
During this time, I’d been having trouble urinating so Maggie suggested I get in the shower to see if it relaxed me enough to be able to go. It didn’t work and I had some of the worst contractions yet while I was in the shower with no one to help hold me up for support. While I was in there, I started to think the baby wasn’t coming out and that I was at peace with going to the hospital if that was the case. One of the only things that kept me from absolutely deciding to go was having to ride in the car, which I knew would be agony. Maggie said that if I was going to the hospital we were at least going to get the baby down far enough so that a vacuum could be used and I could avoid a repeat cesarean. So around 4:30 p.m., I got back on my bed and kept trying to bring the baby down.
As I kept pushing, we soon noticed that my urethra was extremely swollen and bulging out right above the baby’s head. This is something Maggie said she had never seen in her 35+ years of practice as a midwife, and so she began icing my urethra in between contractions. At this point, I reached down and felt my baby’s head. There was a caput succedaneum, meaning that there was swelling on top of the head that is caused by a prolonged or difficult delivery. (After the fact, Maggie told me that the baby’s head was asynclitic, meaning the head was tilted to the side, and that it straightened out during one of the times that I was pushing and the head was inching out and then going back in a little bit. That would explain the prolonged pushing and the caput.)The exhaustion was starting to set in as I neared 4 hours of pushing and I really began doubting myself as I started to swell just like I did with my first birth, and I feared that the same thing was happening as did before. It was then that I reached down and felt my baby’s head and Shaun held a mirror for me to see exactly how close I was to delivering my baby. And after some words of encouragement and working through some mental blocks, I never had the idea of going to the hospital or being too exhausted enter my mind again - and I pressed on. Much to my surprise, the most effective position for me to push was on my back with my legs pulled back (the lithotomy position commonly used in the hospital), which is generally the second worst position to have a baby aside from hanging from your feet.
After some amazing encouragement and coaching from my birth support team, I finally began to make real progress. I was crying out to the Lord to give me strength and Andrea was praying for me out loud. Maggie and Carol were telling me not that I could do it, but that I WAS doing it. Shaun was my rock and was ever so loving and encouraging through the whole process, and his excitement was contagious. Around 5:35 p.m., the baby’s head started to crown. To my surprise, I never got the “ring of fire,” but the only burning sensation and immense pain I felt was in my swollen urethra. It took what seemed like forever to have another contraction so I could push the head out, but in reality it was probably 2-3 minutes. I began praying for another contraction to come so I could relieve the pressure and get the baby out.
At 5:49 p.m., the baby’s head was out. The cord was loosely around her neck once, and it was easily unwrapped. I wasn’t having very strong contractions anymore, most likely because my uterus was so exhausted and so was I, and so I just kept on pushing until the rest of the baby came out. Her first shoulder came out easily, but the second needed a little help from Maggie. At 5:50 p.m., our baby was born and put right onto my abdomen. She looked right at me and let out a little cry, and she was perfect. I asked Shaun to check the gender and when he said “it’s a girl” I was shocked because I thought it was a boy, but I was thrilled for our daughter, Brennan, who had really wanted a little sister. Brennan ran in right after hearing the baby’s cry and she was instantly in love with the baby, not even noticing the blood and fluid. I’m so thankful that this whole experience is what she will view as “normal” birth.
A few minutes after the baby’s birth, Carol said we should cut the cord because she thought I was bleeding a bit too much and I needed to hand off the baby to Shaun so we could get the placenta delivered. I ended up not bleeding much at all, but it did take 28 minutes to get the placenta delivered. I sat on the toilet for a while waiting for contractions to start up again and eventually got 2 shots of Pitocin and then lay on the floor in my room where I delivered the placenta, which the midwives said was one of the largest they’d seen. The placenta was completely intact and had no irregularities.
Upon examination by Maggie and Carol, I was found to have no tearing, which they thought was due to the length at which the baby’s head was crowning because it allowed for gradual stretching of the perineum. Within a few minutes, I was cleaned up and sitting in bed with my baby girl, whom we named Emma Faith, in my arms. She immediately turned for the breast and latched on right away with her big sister lovingly stroking her head and holding her hand. While I spent time bonding with my girls, the apartment was getting cleaned up. An hour after the birth, you would have never known that anything happened there.
Before leaving, the midwives examined Emma and made sure that she was nursing well. We talked for a bit about the day and I thanked them for all they had done and for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. We all toasted with champagne to the beautiful new life that was in our midst, and then we were left to enjoy our new family of 4.
During the whole process, not once did I feel in danger or afraid that something bad was going to happen. I knew the whole time that I was in completely capable hands and I trusted Maggie and Carol knew what they were doing, and I trusted that my body and baby knew what they were doing. If I had been at the hospital to have this baby, I would have most definitely been forced into a repeat cesarean for a number of reasons. I’m so grateful for the choice that Shaun and I made to have our baby at home and to trust this body that the Lord gave me and the process of birth. So many people thought I couldn’t do it, and especially at home, but I had my home birth after cesarean and now I feel like I can take on the world. I pray that someday home birth will be more normal than hospital birth and that women begin to trust the innate intelligence of their bodies and not the educational intelligence of doctors (unless absolutely necessary, of course). It is my hope that all women get a chance to know the incredible joy that I feel when I remember the birth of my daughter, Emma.
If you'd like to share your birth story please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natural Birth Series
Sept 28 – Nov 15
Infant Sleep for Expecting & New Parents
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Gentle Cesarean: Planning & Recovery
Toro Park, 3-6:30pm
Natural Birth Refresher
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Preconception & Early Pregnancy Class
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Sibling Prep for Parents & Kids
November 4th & 5th
Toro Park, 2:-4pm
Fall Home & Birth Center Birth Series
Nov 7 – Dec 12
Natural Birth Series
Nov 29th – Jan 17th