This story starts long before Hannah was conceived. It starts in the operating room where my son, Mason, was born by cesarean section.

I was induced simply because my OB/GYN said I was “overdue”… I was just 40w 6d. Mason was posterior, and I was stuck in bed with an epidural and the million and one wires connecting my body to various machines — the typical hospital birth scenario. My doctor declared CPD and FTP after stalling at 4 cm for 4 hours.

The cesarean was cold and impersonal. It was a traumatic experience. The doctors were busy gossiping, I was shaking uncontrollably, I felt ignored and belittled. The doctors never said “congratulations”, in fact I didn’t even know they had left the OR until I was suddenly being wheeled out of the room to be taken to recovery. Once there, I cried for my son… everyone got to see him but me, I was an invalid in bed. I didn’t get to see Mason until 3 hours after he was born, because I was passed out in recovery.

When I finally saw him, I didn’t feel that bond everyone told me about. I didn’t even know if he was mine or not–I never saw him leave my body. The cesarean ruined our first moments together. I didn’t think, “that was all worth it”, I wasn’t grateful for the cesarean. Already I knew I could have had him vaginally. I knew my cesarean was unnecessary.

Fast forward 19 months later–after one stressful and emotionally draining year of trying to conceive, we found out we were pregnant with our second child. We were due April 24th 2009, and over the moon with excitement. I immediately looked into my birthing options–A birth center or a homebirth with a midwife.

I soon found out that the birth center couldn’t take VBAC’s due to “liability issues”. They could only take me at the hospital across the street, something I knew I didn’t want. I was afraid that I would somehow be bullied into another cesarean section. The other option was a homebirth, which sounded lovely, but I wasn’t sold on it right away. It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my 1st trimester that I suddenly turned to my husband Jason and said, “I want a homebirth”. We were sitting on the sofa watching TV. It just came to me out of the blue… it felt right. “Okay”, he said.

I envisioned a beautiful homebirth of a baby girl. I knew she was a girl from the start. I even had dreams about her well before the ultrasound. I called the midwife I had met a while back when still TTC, Joni, and told her we were finally pregnant, and indeed going with a homebirth.

The rest is history.

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On Thursday, April 23rd, Joni came over for my 40 week appointment, and I told her the whole time she was there I was having lots of Braxton Hicks. They weren’t painful at all–just tightening. She said, “Maybe that means I will be seeing you later!” I told her, “Yeah right!” I had been having Braxton Hicks since 20 weeks, so this was nothing new, plus I was already convinced I was going to go past my due date anyway.

The Braxton Hicks continued throughout the night, and a few of them woke me up from my sleep. Friday at around 5:30 in the morning I noticed they were much stronger. They weren’t very painful, but they just felt different. They had lots of pressure and the pain radiated from front to back. I was getting hopeful, but remember thinking, “Yeah right, what are the odds I will go into labor on my due date..”

Then the diarrhea started–I swear I must have been in and out of the bathroom all morning. At that point I had a feeling something was up. I got up and walked around, the contractions didn’t go away. I had a feeling this really was it, but at the same time I was in denial that my body was actually going into labor on it’s own. I didn’t want to get Jason’s hopes up, so I didn’t tell him. He asked me what was wrong but I told him it was nothing.

We got Mason up and had our typical morning routine. The contractions were coming anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes apart, but I could still walk and talk through them. I finally told Jason I was having some contractions, and I thought something was going on, but not sure. I told him maybe he should stay home, since I thought something was up. He decided to go to work, but told me to call if anything was happening. Looking back, I think he was in denial, as was I.

About an hour after Jason left, the contractions were suddenly getting more painful and more regular. They were about every 10 minutes apart, with some weaker ones in between. There were a few I could not walk through, and had to lean over. I started to panic a little–I always thought I would be one of those who wanted to be alone during labor, but I was just the opposite. I was afraid, I wanted someone there.

I called Jason, but he didn’t pick up his cell phone (I found out later he was blasting music and rocking out on the way to work) I called my sister Angel (who was going to be in charge of watching Mason), then I called Joni and told her what was going on. As I did, I felt silly. I was still in denial that this was really it. I told her I was having regular contractions and she told me she would give me a call back later to see how things were going, or I could call her if
it got really intense.

I was feeling very fidgety. I put on Blue’s Clue’s for Mason, and went around the house doing some last minute cleaning and prepping for the birth. I thought about making the cupcakes that I had planned on making in early labor–for Hannah’s birthday–but I just could not focus so I decided not to even try. I was on edge and everything was getting on my nerves.

I called Jason back, but this time I called his work number, he picked up and I told him I wanted him to come home, that I was scared and I felt this was really it. Looking back, I don’t know why I felt scared–I just didn’t want to be alone. I also wanted Joni there but knew it was way too early. I felt I needed to have people that I loved around me.

While I was waiting for Jason to come home, I made sure Mason was occupied and I took a shower and got dressed, all the while having regular, strong contractions. What a sight it must have been to see a heavily pregnant woman trying to maneuver around her huge 40 week belly to shave her legs and deal with contractions at the same time.

About an hour later, Jason was home. All three of us went for a walk down to the lake. I would have to stop every now and then and breathe through a contraction. The walk was surreal–I was in labor!

The dock was peaceful, and it was a beautiful sunny day. We sat on the picnic table for a while goofing around and taking pictures.

I seriously wanted to beat him. I was already on edge, and in the midst of a contraction, and that was the last thing that I wanted to hear. Jason, sensing my annoyance, said, “Well, we’re working on it now, actually”. “Oh”, he said, “Well good luck”. I just stood there breathing through contractions while Jason chatted with him for a few more minutes.

When we got home, we went out to the backyard and pushed Mason in his swing. We didn’t have any patio furniture yet so I made Jason go inside and get my birth ball. It really helped with the pressure, but when a contraction hit I just wanted to hang onto something, and there was nothing to brace myself, so it just ended up annoying me.

We went back inside. I was hungry but nothing sounded good. Jason called Chili’s and ordered us some food, then went to pick up. I stayed home with Mason, but needed to focus on contractions, so I let him on the computer so he could watch YouTube videos of PM Dawn.

I was in the sun room, and when one particular contraction hit, I had to fall to my hands and knees to work through it. Mason jumped on my back and wanted to wrestle. I panted to Jason, “Get (pant, pant) him, (pant, pant) off me”. I feel so bad about it now, but I really needed to focus through the contractions. After the contraction subsided, I stood back up like nothing ever happened. Mason probably thought I was crazy.

Angel texted me around this time and told me she was leaving work and asked if we needed any food. I told her we already ate. I was so glad she was on her way, not only for support, but also to keep Mason occupied.

By the time 4:30 pm rolled around, the contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart. Some milder ones were even coming every 3 minutes. I just stood in the bathroom, standing at the sink and leaning onto it, while swaying my hips with each contraction. It felt good to be up and mobile in labor–doing whatever I wanted to do. I looked in the mirror from time to time, not believing that was me in there, feeling this. My body had gone into labor on it’s own–I was not broken. I looked around the bathroom, the afternoon sun shining in through the window… it was beautiful and so peaceful. I wanted to remember that moment forever.

While I was in the bathroom, the first really painful, oh-my-god contraction hit. I had to moan through it. It really caught me by surprise and freaked me out. I knew that must have been the monster contraction that Joni was talking about. I did not feel in control at all during it and I was starting to become fearful again. I wanted Joni there. I told Jason to call her now and tell her to please come over–contractions 4 minutes apart and very, very intense.

Angel arrived around 5 pm, and came in the bedroom to see me on my knees in front of the bed. I was moaning through a contraction, and she looked a little freaked out.

The contractions were unbelievable by now. It took everything I had to make it through them. Angel went to occupy Mason, who was becoming increasingly distressed over my condition. He would cry every now and then if he heard me. Between contractions I would ask, “How is Mason? Is he okay?”. Looking back having Mason there was a bit distracting at times. When I heard him in the background, I would start to worry about him and loose my focus.

Joni arrived shortly after 6pm. When she walked into the bedroom, I was curled up on the bed in a fetal position moaning through a contraction. She was ready to check my progress, and I was eager to know how far along I was.

Just when she was ready to check me, I had yet another really intense contraction and my water broke in a huge gush all over the bed. “My water broke”, I said, as if it wasn’t obvious. I remember whimpering to Joni ,”Oh no–doesn’t that mean they are going to get even stronger?” I was petrified at how much more painful the contraction were going to get.

Joni checked me and I was 5 cm! I didn’t get past 4 cm with Mason. I felt better knowing I was indeed making progress, but at the same time I knew I was only halfway there, and I had just, by definition, entered active labor.

Labor was soon very, very painful and intense, and from this point on, everything is really fuzzy. I don’t remember what time it was, who said what, or even what I was doing. I had my eyes closed most of the time, so I didn’t even see much of anything. All I remember was PAIN and not wanting to be alone.

When I was in labor with Mason, Jason annoyed me and I didn’t want him near me. This time, I needed him. I wouldn’t let him leave my side. During those very intense, scary contractions, he was my anchor in a stormy sea. Every time I could feel a contraction coming on, I would say, “Grab my hand!” and I would squeeze it hard. I remember biting him at one point (hehe), and he told me,”Don’t bite, that hurts.” We stood up for a while, swaying back and forth. I would lean into him when a contraction hit, and just hang from him. During one such contraction, I suddenly felt like pushing. I couldn’t help it. It really does feel like everyone says it does–like taking a really big shit. “I’m pushing!” I yelled. “That’s okay”, Joni said.

At some point, the assistant midwife, Bea, arrived, and they set up the birth supplies. Joni put the birth ball on the bed, and I leaned into that for a while. I started having some more contractions that felt very “pushy”. I have always heard how the urge to push is unbelievable, and they were right. There is no fighting that urge. It’s like a freight train moving through your body. I thought pushing felt better though, I was actually doing something with the pain.

At one point Jason asked me what I wanted to eat. Nothing sounded very appetizing, but I did notice I was feeling pretty weak and I needed something. I told him peanut butter toast and jelly toast. He came back with them made just the way I like it–one with peanut butter and butter, and the other with jelly and butter, also a Gatorade juice box. He would periodically feed me bites of the toast and hold the Gatorade in front of my face to I could sip it every now and then.

Joni checked me at one point, and said I was 7 cm. I couldn’t believe it! Seven? Really? She told me she was going to try and stretch my cervi xa little bit with the next contraction, because I was starting to push with some contractions. She didn’t want my cervi xto swell.

She then suggested I move to the toilet and try to urinate. I couldn’t pee, but I did end up sitting there for a while. Jason sat to my left sitting on the sink, holding my hand. Joni was sitting on the floor at my feet, and Bea was filming a little just outside the bathroom. When a contraction would hit, I would take my right hand, brace the side of the toilet and lift myself up. I guess I did this because sitting completely on the toilet seat was too uncomfortable.

Someone, I think Joni, put a cold wash cloth around my neck, and that really helped. I was getting really hot and sweaty working so hard. I would push with almost every contraction now. I could feel her head going lower and lower. I kept saying, “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore…”. Joni would just reply, “But you are doing it. Your body is doing exactly what it needs to… you went into labor on your own–it’s awesome! Everything you are feeling is your own body doing what it’s supposed to…” Just what I needed to hear. I am so glad that I had her there, she’s not only an amazing midwife, but a wonderful person.

At that point I know 100% for a fact I would have taken the epidural if someone was able to get it to me. If I were in the hospital, I know I would have gotten it. I am not going to lie, at that point I was thinking, “Maybe the c-section would have been easier…” The pain was unreal. I was trying to stay on top of the contractions, but I just couldn’t. I was moaning and screaming, my throat was getting sore (I actually ended up losing my voice for a few days because of all the noise I was making). I’m glad I was home surrounded by people who supported me and believed in me 100%.

At some point Joni suggested I get off the toilet and try another position on the bed. The thought of moving was terrifying. As soon as the last contraction ended, I quickly made a dash for the bed, hoping one wouldn’t surprise me along the way. She had me lay down so she could check me again. I was 8 cm–I was elated to hear this, but at the same time I was in so much pain it wasn’t good enough. I was actually a little pissed off, thinking how long is this going to take? Joni stretched my cervi xwith the next contraction.

The next thing I knew I was pushing with every contraction, laying on my left side with my right knee being held up by Jason. No one ever said, “10 cm-time to push!” They let me do what my body was telling me to do. Jason, Joni and Bea were awesome, cheering me on and giving me encouragement when I would say “I cannot do this!” (which I had to have said at least 100 times, I am sure) Joni encouraged me to touch her head–wow, what a feeling that was. “Looks like she has dark hair!” she said. I was expecting a blondie like Mason. That definitely gave me the motivation to push even harder.

At one point, I distinctly remember Hannah pushing off of the top of my uterus as a contraction hit–trying to wriggle herself out. It was amazing that my baby girl was working with me. We were a team… in it together.

Pushing was somewhat manageable until she was crowning. Wow–that was the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life. I was screaming at one point. I have no idea how Mason, who was sleeping down the hall on the couch in the living room, did not wake up.

Joni later told me I pushed for about 2 hours. Honestly, I do not remember it being that long. Even with all the pain I was feeling, it seemed half that amount of time. I remember asking, “is her head out?” almost after every contraction, because I just wanted the pain to end. Joni and Bea would tell me I was making beautiful progress, and Jason would squeeze my hand saying,”She’s right there, babe.” I just kept pushing and screaming until I heard, “Her head is out!”

After a few more pushes, her shoulders wouldn’t budge, and this is where it gets really fuzzy and hectic.

All I remember is one minute, Bea was filming at the foot of the bed, and the next minute she was at Joni’s side. I was laying on my back at that point, and they told me to get on my hands and knees. As I flipped over, I looked at their faces and saw panic. That scared the crap out of me. I just remember asking, “Is she stuck!?”

It felt as if they were ripping me apart. They yanked her up and down as I screamed. The pain from the contractions and the force of Joni and Bea trying to free Hannah caused me to throw up. Then they had me flip onto my back again and pull my knees up to my chest. They kept saying, “Push Michele!! PUSH!!” I pushed with all the strength I had left. I knew I needed to get her out. At that point the pain didn’t matter, I didn’t care if they did rip me apart–I just wanted her out and alive.

Finally, she came out. Joni later told me it was 4 minutes that she was stuck. Looking back, it honestly didn’t feel like it was that long–those 4 minutes were such a blur to me. It was like an outer body experience.

When she was out, she was limp, and not breathing, but her heart was beating at 120 bpm. They gave her oxygen and tried stimulating her, meanwhile Jason and I were in shock. They had Angel call 911.

I couldn’t believe it was happening. I got really freaked out when Bea started praying (I was later told that shoulder dystocia is her worst fear). I was crying and saying over and over, “Oh no….Hannah, please don’t die…this isn’t happening”. I glanced over at Jason, he must have been pacing because he was across the room. He had his hands to his face, looking pale.

After about one minute (but felt an eternity) she finally started breathing–I heard her crying and relief swept over me. I was later told her Apgars were 3 and 7.

They handed her to me. She was still warm and wet from my womb. I will never forget that feeling. I was amazed at the amount of dark hair she had–Mason was born blond and almost bald! She was so beautiful! I couldn’t believe what I had just done–or should I say “we” because I felt Hannah and I worked as a team during the birth. We did it!

I still lay on my back on the bed, Hannah was now being assessed further by Joni and Bea. I don’t remember what they were doing exactly, since everything at this point is pretty fuzzy–but I am sure it was something to do with her right arm, which was pretty limp.

The next thing I remember is Joni at my feet telling me to push. The placenta came out quickly and there was no hemorrhaging–which is sometimes seen with a shoulder dystocia.

The medics arrived and Joni and Bea filled them in on what happened. Her color was fine and she was okay, but decided to go to the hospital just as a precaution. Joni and Bea cleaned me off and helped me get dressed. I went with Hannah in the ambulance, and Jason followed with Joni. Angel stayed home with Mason (who was still asleep, thank god).

They let me hold her in the ambulance, and had me hold an oxygen mask on her face. Once there, I was wheeled into the emergency room. Everyone kept saying “congratulations” as I was wheeled by with Hannah. You know that scene from Robocop, the one in which he has just been made into Robocop and the scene is shot from his perspective, with different people coming up to his face and talking to him? Well, that is what it was like for me, it seemed surreal. I felt like I was doped up. Different people were coming up to me asking questions. I couldn’t believe I was at the hospital–the very place I wanted to avoid.

We were taken to L&D. I was relieved when Jason and Joni walked into the room. Of course, the nurses and doctors were asking Joni lots of questions, as if she were on trial. They asked me about my pre-natal care, etc. I kept telling them I went to the birth center until 32 weeks, then I went with Joni for a homebirth–plain and simple.

I had a resident and an intern come over and stare at my vagina to assess the damage. I had a 2nd degree vaginal tear. They asked me what pain relief I wanted while they stitched me–and epidural or local anesthesia. At first I said I wanted the epidural. I just didn’t want to feel anymore pain (at this point I was still in shock at how painful the birth was) and was afraid the local wouldn’t numb me enough.

Joni talked some sense into me–if I got the epidural I would need a catheter (though I ended up with one anyway since I was so swollen I couldn’t urinate) and an IV. I opted for the local anesthesia.

I was getting annoyed–the resident was asking me questions and all I wanted to do was hold Hannah and feed her her first meal. She was across the room having some blood drawn and was being checked over, the whole time crying and rooting for my breast. Joni held my hand and comforted me when I started to cry about how the birth turned out, and how I just wanted to feed her. I seriously wanted to jump off the bed and punch my way through the crowd of nurses and doctors to get to her.

After what seemed like an eternity, they said she was fine, but her right arm seemed to have some possible nerve damage from being stuck, but would need to see over time what the prognosis was. I FINALLY got to breastfeed her–she latched on like a champ! It was wonderful. I sighed a huge sigh of relief. My baby, safe and sound.

Joni ended up leaving the hospital at around 2 AM–she stayed with us for a long time, giving us support and showing her concern. She took Jason home and then Jason drove back to the hospital in our car. He ended up staying the night there with me and Hannah and Angel stayed home with Mason.

We were supposed to go home the next morning, but there was a delay in the bloodwork so I stayed an extra day with her. That was hell. I felt like I was in a prison. Jason had to stay home with Mason, so I was alone and it was depressing and boring. Mason met his little sister for the first time at the hospital–I had always though it would have been at home.

Surprisingly, there was only one “homebirth is risky” comment while I was there. It was from the specialist that came to assess Hannah’s arm on the last day there. She told me that I should be thankful I didn’t rupture, then looked at me wide-eyed, like she was trying to scare me, “Do you know we have had ruptures happen here at the hospital?” I just looked at her and said, “Look, I did my research, I know all about it.” She then proceeded to say that I risked my life, and Hannah’s life. It annoyed me how she talked to me like I was a silly little girl.

By the time we left the hospital, her arm had already improved greatly. It is now pretty normal and I don’t think she will need physical therapy, though we have an appointment with a physical therapist just to be sure. (*update* it’s been 6 months since her birth, and her shoulder is totally healed, and has been for some time now)

Five days after the birth, I had my second postpartum visit with Joni. I cried to her and told her that though I pushed my baby out–I still was bothered by how it ended, the shoulder dystocia, the hospital, etc. I asked her if she would consider it a failed homebirth, to which she replied,”You had your baby at home.”

Talking to her made me feel at peace with it.

Though the ending wasn’t ideal, and very scary, it was an amazing experience overall. I pushed my baby out of my body, without pitocin, without pain medication, and disproved my former OB’s “CPD” diagnosis (Hannah was 7 oz. bigger than Mason, and almost half and inch longer)–and for that I am very proud.

The shoulder dystocia could have happened at the hospital too–it’s just unpredictable. I accept that. It occurs in about 1% of births–so I guess we won the lottery with that one. Joni told me she’s been doing homebirths for 10 years, and this was only her 3rd shoulder dystocia. We were unlucky but we pulled through and we are okay. My midwives, Joni and Bea, were incredible and handled it beautifully. I couldn’t thank them enough! Such awesome women!

I can actually say now, that I birthed my baby. I just couldn’t say that about Mason, it fit the term birth by definition only. I still can’t believe I did it. I really did it. I pushed my beautiful little girl out of my body. She is finally here. I birthed Hannah on the same bed in which she was conceived, and into loving arms, at home.

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Michele
A stay at home mommy to my son Mason and baby girl Hannnah, loving wife to Jason, natural birth advocate, writer, artist and very proud VBAC and homebirth mama!
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