On September 21, 2022, I gave birth to my second child, our son, Conor Daniel. The story of his journey is one that I am super proud of, one that will stay with me forever.
To best understand the story, however, I have to first touch upon the birth of my daughter five years prior. Noelle was born on September 16, 2017. Throughout my pregnancy with her, I knew that I wanted to experience a vaginal birth and routinely visualized the “Golden Hour” that immediately follows. Life, however, had other plans. While Noelle was born healthy and has grown to be absolutely amazing, her birth story did not go as I had intended. I went into labor 10 days after her due date, and after 22 hours, I ended up delivering via cesarean. The hardest part of my particular c-section was not being able to immediately hold her due to my physical state post-op. It wasn’t until about two hours later that she was in my arms and we had our skin-to-skin.
Again, Noelle was born safely and for that I am grateful, but I knew going into my second pregnancy that I wanted to try for a vaginal birth again. Of course, I was presented with the potential risks of a VBAC and considered them, but ultimately, and after tons of research, I knew that I had to at least try. And for me, that meant doing things differently than I did the first time around.
First, I switched to midwifery care and hired a doula. Second, I saw a chiropractor two times a week in the last month of my pregnancy to better prepare my body for birth. Also in the last month, I was taking supplements like Evening Primrose Oil and Dr. Christopher’s Birth Prep capsules each night. Third, I did a lot of research on natural birth and VBACs, from following midwives and doulas on Instagram to reading books like Natural Hospital Birth and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Last, I made a clear birth plan with elements drastically different than in my first birth:
- I would labor at home as long as possible, rather than immediately go to the hospital.
- I would decline all pain medications, like the use of an epidural.
- I would decline any induction or speeding up of labor, like the use of pitocin.
- I would limit the amount of cervical checks.
- I would use a wireless fetal monitor during labor so I could move around freely.
My reasons for wanting a natural birth were definitely influenced by what transpired in my first birth, but in all honesty, the main reason was because I really wanted the experience. During my research, I was so inspired by the stories of other mamas, and just in awe of what our bodies can do. I wanted to know that my body could do it, too. And I wanted the feeling of holding my baby right after it did.
So, long story short, I had a plan in place to give myself the best chance of a successful, natural VBAC. Here’s how it went down…
I was 38 weeks, 3 days pregnant when I went into labor. The day before was like any normal Tuesday, and I was feeling good. I went to an event at my daughter’s school, got adjusted at the chiropractor, and did a bunch of grocery shopping at The Fresh Market. While we were definitely in need of groceries, I do remember thinking that from here on out, I’d better have the house well-stocked.
Going to bed that night, however, I started to feel mildly uncomfortable. A few hours later, I had a vivid dream that caused me to wake up suddenly at 5:50am. I got up to use the restroom and wasn’t surprised to find that things seemed to be getting started.
I was supposed to see my midwife at 11:15am for a check-up, but I moved that appointment up to 9:15am. After Danny and I dropped Noelle at school, we headed right to the office. Around 9:45am, my midwife, Nikki, confirmed that I was indeed in early labor and 2cm dilated. I immediately called both my mom and my doula, Karin, to let them know things were starting a little earlier than expected.
From the office, we grabbed some egg sandwiches from Boca Bagel Bar and headed home! It was about 11:00am, I was still feeling good and moving around. Contractions were not too intense. I cleaned up, managed to eat one half of my sandwich, hydrated, and made sure the hospital bags were ready to go.
By 12:30pm, my mom arrived at my house and Karin was on her way. What a relief. This helped me get into “relax mode.” I put on some music, drew a bath, switched on a few LED tealight candles, and turned off the lights. What a difference it made to labor at home! My bath, my things, my comfort zone. The warm water was so soothing and made the contractions more bearable. Karin arrived at 1:30pm and Noelle got home from school around 2:15pm. They all took turns pouring water over me, Noelle came in for a few hugs and kisses. I’m so glad she was able to be part of the birth in this way.
By 3:00pm, I moved out of the bath and into my bedroom. The contractions were heating up. Karin began to help me through each surge by applying pressure to my lower back in an effort to counter the pain of the contraction. It helped so much that I was beginning to dread the drive to the hospital because I knew Karin would be in a different car. (Luckily, we live close to the hospital.)
Leading up to this day, Karin always told me that “I’d know when it was time to go to the hospital.” She’d be there to guide me, but ultimately wanted me to feel in complete control. Between 3:00pm and 3:30pm, as everything was starting to intensify, I realized I better get that car ride over with now so I could get back to laboring with the support of Karin and Danny and those at the hospital.
And so, we said sweet goodbyes to Noelle and my mother, who would be buddies together for the next few days. By 3:48pm, we were out the door. Slowly but surely, after a few breaks to get through contractions, we arrived at the car. The ride to the hospital was about 10 minutes – so about three surges later, we arrived. Check-in was relatively easy, I was put in a wheelchair, asked a few questions, and by 4:34pm, I was lying in my hospital bed. We made it.
Danny and Karin were by my side, nurses coming in and out. As I waited for Nikki to arrive, one of the nurses performed my second cervical check and announced that I was about 4-5cm dilated. Almost halfway there.
The lights in the hospital room were now low. Karin had brought more tealights and a projector that cast a bunch of stars on the ceiling. My bluetooth speaker played pretty, calming music. It was my vibe all the way. For the next hour, I spent most of my time in the bathroom, leaning against the sink counter, Karin applying back pressure during each surge.
By 6:00pm, I was getting tired. Out of the bathroom, Danny and I swayed and danced for a bit near the bed. The swaying movement is also quite soothing between surges, and I was able to rest a bit leaning against my husband.
At 6:18pm, the tides really turned: my waters broke. I didn’t think it was possible, but the waters breaking made my contractions even more intense. It was time to get in warm water again. I headed into the shower, leaning on Danny for support. This is where I first started feeling the urge to push. My midwife, Nikki, later told me that this is when I went into the transition phase of labor.
I made my way back to the bed around 7:00pm. I stood/leaned on one side, Nikki on the other. I hadn’t had a cervical check since 4:30pm when we arrived at the hospital. Nikki told me I’d know when we should check again.
Sure enough, after a few more surges in this position, with Nikki across from me, I felt a big urge to push and I knew. Around 7:30pm, we checked again, and I was 9.5cm dilated! I only ever made it to 6cm with Noelle before the cesarean, so this was amazing to hear.
It was time for the next position: on the bed, on my hands and knees, facing the top of the bed. This position allowed me to rest a bit between surges. By 8:00pm, I was in full pushing mode. My team lifted the top of the bed a bit so I could grasp the edge and use it as leverage.
Karin had given me a comb to hold earlier in the day. Gripping the comb in the palm of my hand was another tool to relieve contraction pain. I literally did not let go of that comb all day. At this point in my labor, it was still in my left hand while I gripped the bed. With each surge, I pushed until I couldn’t exhale anymore. I could hear Nikki and Danny cheering me on: “You got this, Nat!” and “You’re doing it!”
Sometimes, I’d look at Karin and whimper, “It hurts.” She would nod and look right back at me saying, “I know, but you got this mama. You’re so strong.” While the pushing stage was intense, I was fortunate because in between each surge, my body would sometimes allow me to rest for four or five minutes before the next one. It’s so amazing how our bodies just KNOW.
Soon, I was hearing, “I see his head!” Omg, the relief. We weren’t quite there yet, but knowing he was really almost here reenergized me. I feel like I gave the next pushes even more force than the previous ones. By 8:53pm, Nikki suggested we switch positions. The baby was getting a little stuck so changing it up could help guide him down better.
I laid on my left side and pulled my right leg toward me. Danny was there helping me hold it up. With each surge, I pulled my leg in and pushed against it. The baby was responding better to this, but I was put on oxygen in the last few minutes just to ensure he was getting enough.
After 10 minutes and four or five pushes on my side, it was time for the grand finale. Around 9:03pm, I turned on my back. This time, I held both my legs back and got ready to push. Danny was to my left. Karin was to my right, preparing to film the birth.
With just one push in this position, his head was fully out!
Nikki told me to stop for a second, not to rush. Now, if you’ve ever heard about the “Ring of Fire” part of labor, this was it. I felt completely open and literally on fire, but I held it in.
Finally, she gave me the go ahead and told me to push the next time I felt it.
Oh, I felt it.
So, she declared, “Push!”
And with one last mighty force came immediate, sweet relief.
At 9:06pm, my son flew out of me safely into Nikki’s arms. I’ll never forget that feeling of release. It was like magic.
As soon as Conor was out, he was handed up to me, perfect in every way. I heard his little cries, felt his little body on my chest, held him close as I learned to breathe again. Danny was right by our side, smiling down before putting his hand on my forehand and giving me a kiss. It was just like I imagined it would be.
As the team checked and wiped him, I watched in shock and awe and love and disbelief at what had just transpired.
I did it.
It was hard. It was amazing. And it was so worth it.
In the moments following, I soaked it all in, expressing my immense gratitude to Nikki, Karin, Danny, and my nurse, Lauren. They each helped me achieve my goal and experience the birth I had envisioned.
Once the umbilical cord stop pulsating, Danny carefully cut it and I was able to fully bring Conor to the top of my chest. He snuggled in, so calm. I kissed his head, so in love. At some point, we FaceTimed my mother and introduced Noelle to her little brother. I wish she could’ve been with us, but nevertheless, she was over the moon.
Soon after, Nikki said goodbye, the nurses had a shift change, and Karin headed home.
It was just me, Danny, and our new baby boy.
Our world had just changed again. For the better, again.
To celebrate, we ordered two personal pizzas and warm chocolate chip cookies, reflected on the whirlwind day, stared at our newest little love, and cheers’d to the sweet journey that still lay ahead.
To all the mamas:
“Women, don’t ever apologize for your behavior or choices during birth. When you OWN your experience and take pride in your journey, you help other women do the same thing. No matter how you did it, you just brought a human being into the world! The world should be kneeling at your feet.” — Lauralyn Curtis
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