In December of 2009 I found out I was pregnant again. Emma was only 14 months old (and never slept), I was in graduate school, I was in therapy for the wild anxiety that hit with the birth of my first and I was totally not prepared for another baby. I liked the idea of another baby in the house but I was completely scared of going through another rough birth and didn’t think our sleep deprived family could handle another. I considered not having the baby but my husband convinced me we should.
The first few months were rough because I am the lucky recipient of horrid morning sickness in the first trimester, and that combined with a nursing toddler was enough to drain me. I remember when Emma would run into the bathroom and pretend to throw up like mommy, which was awesome! Despite not feeling great, I had the added pressure of figuring out how to deliver the baby. 14 months prior to getting pregnant, I had received a questionable c-section. That story is for next month but as soon as I found out number 2 was coming, I needed to find a different method of care because I was not stepping foot into a hospital again.
So I did my homework and tried to find a doctor who would deliver the baby VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). I was definitely interested in a homebirth because everything I read told me that it was safe, and was the only real chance I had to deliver the way I wanted but my insurance company told me they would not pay for a homebirth. They were, however, full of shit! Anyway, I researched doctors with high VBAC rates and made appointments. I immediately disliked all of them because they all said the same thing. They would deliver the baby and give me a chance for a VBAC but with the first complication I was going under the knife due to fear of uterine rupture. I knew what they said was wrong because the research shows that uterine rupture is really rare (less than 1 in 100 women) and “a VBAC might help you avoid the risks of multiple cesarean deliveries, such as bowel or bladder injury and placenta problems.” Also, I was not a high risk pregnancy. I was only 32, had a very healthy pregnancy with Emma and my medical records showed a fairly normal labor. It had resulted in a c-section but that was due more to my knife-happy doctor and not a true emergency.
I knew I wanted a midwife but since I had hospital midwives the first time around, I knew that their power in the hospital was limited. As they were wheeling me into surgery, my midwife turned to my husband and said that if the doctors had given me more time, I would have delivered the baby on my own. They were at the will of the hospital and had to walk on a very thin rope to stay in the hospital. So, I did some more research and found that a homebirth would indeed be paid for by health insurance. The insurance companies like to tell you no but if you have the right people asking the right questions, they have to pay for it! I called around to homebirth midwives in those early months but they were either full or not interested in doing an HBAC (homebirth after c-section). One midwife told me that if in a few months I could not find someone, to call her back. This is what I did and this is what changed everything, and clearly we were happy about that!
I have to be honest and say that I was surrounded by supporters. I live in an amazing community of women who focus on helping women find the right birth path, and this makes research and support very easy. I attended regular ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Netword) meetings and these women gave me such great advice. They taught me how to fight for what I wanted and their resources helped me achieve my goals. So, I called back the midwife who said she would help and she agreed to take me on. I could not have asked for a more caring, intelligent, strong and helpful midwife. Joan Bryson (who is now retired) made the remaining months of my pregnancy happy. I didn’t have to worry about my delivery because Joan believed in my ability to birth my baby and taught me to believe in it too. She took such good care of my family, and helped all us feel comfortable and informed. The greatest gift she gave to me was finding my inner birth warrior. I was not afraid of how I was going to deliver the baby because I trusted my birth care and my body!
At 10:00 pm on September 10, 2010 I felt my first contraction. Emma was asleep, Jason was asleep and I was just crawling into bed. It hit me hard and fast, and since I had never felt a real (non-medicated) contraction, it was totally manageable. At first I worried that the contractions would break my water and I would get thrown into the same situation as with my first child but as the contractions came regularly that feeling disappeared. I tried to sleep between contractions but once they started they came evenly; 15 minutes at first, then 10, then 7, then 5, then… I managed to walk through my contractions and birth alone while my family slept. I paced, I squatted, I sat in the bath, I crawled, I stretched and I labored completely normally. Around 2:00 in the morning Emma woke up and I rushed in to soothe her. I sat in her bed, sang her a song and tried to breath between hard, fast contractions. Luckily the birth gods saw fit to put her back to sleep and I went on.
I woke Jason up because I stopped being able to time my contractions. He woke up, called Joan and timed my contractions. At this point, 3 or 4:00 in the morning I was losing confidence. I couldn’t do it alone anymore and the pain was intense. I told Jason to call Joan and tell her I couldn’t do it anymore. He got on the phone with her and she told him this was a good sign and that the baby was coming soon! At some point I began throwing up and things got better. I screamed from the bathroom “TRANSITION!!!” and knew I could make it. Over the next few hours I pushed, Emma woke up and was rushed to friend’s house, pushed some more and continued to push for an eternity. At some point, I started to fall asleep and lose my ability to stand or push but being a resourceful midwife, Joan asked her assistant to make me some tea. The iced, green tea came at just the right time because the caffeine kicked in and I pushed this amazing human out!
My memories of this moment are probably blurry and filled with nostalgia but what I remember is a moment when time stood still and I experienced the true meaning of humanity. I delivered a human with only my body and my support team. It was a moment of pure power; pain and exhaustion too but pure power! She came into this world quietly and only cried a tiny bit. While Joan dealt with trying to get me to stop bleeding and get all the tiny pieces of my placenta out (it tore apart during labor), I held the everything in my arms. She was beautiful, strong, big (weighing just under 9lbs) and very sleepy. We cleaned her up, she nursed a little and we fell asleep in our own home. As we laid there together I just could not help but notice how perfectly she fit next to me and how this experience would change my life forever.
I wasn’t changed because of birth (although truly magical), or because of motherhood (I was already a mother), I was changed because of Adeline. She was what our family needed at a very difficult time. She was the zen in a household of imbalance. She was quiet, joyful, sleepy, patient, gentle and wild at the same time. She continues to teach me to be patient, mindful, creative, sensitive, wild and fun. We constantly find ourselves saying when we do new things that “Adeline will have fun” because she always does. She appreciates life despite too often feeling insecure without her family around, despite finding transitions difficult and despite being introverted. I know we always say that we need to respect and listen to our elders because they are full of wisdom but having this child has made me realize just how much wisdom comes from even the tiniest creature.
Happy Birthday to the most spirited, imaginative and affectionate person I know!!!