This is Olive's story. She is Annika's little sister and a HOME BIRTH. Excuse the all caps but Sharon delivered Olive AT HOME!!! After her difficult delivery at a hospital the first time, I am amazed at the way she empowered herself. Sharon is a warrior.
As I sit down to write out my birth story, I feel like I’m embarking on the task of writing the never-ending story, as many times during my birth I wondered if there would ever be an end. It has been a little over 3 weeks, and I’m finally sitting down to write this out because I am already forgetting the details. I think this is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that our species proliferates…only by forgetting the nitty gritty details of challenging labors can women ever think about birthing again. In fact, in the midst of labor I told Phil we would never have another child; yet within days of Olive’s birth, I decided that I would definitely do this again. After all, it would have to be easier and shorter next time, right?
So, on Friday night around 9pm, I started to notice my contractions were coming on moderately strong and were consistently 10 minutes apart. I had been having contractions on and off that entire weekend (and milder ones for about a month prior) but this time they didn’t go away. I tried to go to bed with Phil around 11pm but the contractions kept waking me up. So, I spent most of the night snuggled with Buttercup on the couch, getting up every 10 minutes to breathe through my contractions. At 2am, I called my mom to start the drive down from LA. I figured we were definitely having our baby soon and wanted to make sure she got here in time to help care for Annika during labor. It took her 4 hours to get here in the pouring rain! In the morning, I called V and told her what I was experiencing. She offered to have D come over and check me out. Later that morning, D came over and determined that I was 3cm dilated. I was a bit disappointed that it was only 3, but happy to realize that it was already more than I had ever dilated with Annika.
Phil told her that I seemed to be having back labor, since I had been asking him to push into my lower back, applying counter-pressure, during many of my contractions. During the exam she confirmed that Olive was posterior and had me lay in several positions to help move her. I lay on my side with my knee hiked up as high as I could get it, and had to remain in that position for 20 minutes, then the same on the other side. She also suggested climbing stairs two at a time which I did later that day. Most of the day my contractions were relatively minor and coming about every 8-12 minutes. By evening, they started ramping up again, both in frequency and intensity. I could not get to sleep Monday night because the contractions were coming on strong, and they eventually got to 2-3 minutes apart for hours. Sometime during the night, I had Phil set up the pool and I spent several hours laboring in it, which felt wonderful. The back pain I was experiencing was growing painfully worse, but it seemed to help when Phil would apply counter-pressure. I frequently had to wake him in the night so that he could help me get through a contraction. After strong, close contractions for hours, we decided to call V as I was sure we were getting close.
V and D arrived early Tuesday morning. D’s car broke down on her way, so her brother had to pick her up and bring her over. The rain was coming down hard, so Phil invited him to wait it out in our house. Annika was quite surprised to wake up in the morning and see all these guests in her home! When V had been on her way, Phil and I had discussed how far dilated I must be and how close we were to having our baby. We were discussing dates and decided that day, December 16, would be a fine day to have a baby. I told Phil that my biggest fear was that I’d only be 5 cm dilated and told him I would cry if it were true. Sure enough, I was checked and turned out to be 4.5 cm dilated! Oy, 15 hours had passed since my last check and I had only progressed by 1.5 cm! I was so devastated, as I was already so exhausted and had experienced such strong contractions, I couldn’t imagine it getting much worse but knew it had to being that I was only halfway there. The midwives hung around for a little while, then I asked if they planned to stay until the baby came. They said it was up to me, that they would do whatever I felt most comfortable with. Knowing that I was not even halfway to pushing time, I sadly told them they could go.
Phil was a great motivator and worked so tirelessly to keep me thinking positively. The good news was that I was progressing, however slowly. But the better news was that the baby had moved into an occipital position, out of the posterior one…though unfortunately the back labor did not go away. The midwives had encouraged us to get out of the house and walk around so we took my mom and Annika and headed out to the mall (indoor mall, since it was still storming). Annika and her Safta enjoyed running around and playing, while Phil and I slowly walked around. I was back to slowed down, less strong contractions. When I felt one coming on, I moved to stand by a store window and breathed through it so as not to stand out and look strange to the nearby shoppers. Later that evening, the contractions started intensifying again. I spent many hours of the night alternating between the pool, hot showers and bouncing on the birth ball. Phil was up with me most of the night, preparing food for me and rubbing/pushing my back. Thankfully D had shown him how to use one of Annika’s rubber bouncy balls to apply pressure to my back so that his hands had a bit of a break (I wanted him to push so hard that he was losing feeling in his hands!). At one point, I remember we went and sat in the living room with the French doors open so I could hear/smell the rain pouring down. I was on the birth ball and Phil was behind me, pushing into my back. Phil was such a great cheerleader.
There were moments during labor that I felt hopeless and ready to throw in the towel. He kept reminding me of the reasons we chose this path, telling me how well my body was working and how close we were getting, and what a good job I was doing. I am so lucky to have this man in my life! Later he admitted that he had experienced his own moments of weakness and doubt, but thankfully he never revealed them to me during the labor. At one point, I had even asked him if we could just go to the hospital for a few hours, so that I could get an epidural and feel some relief. I promised that I just needed a few hours and then we could go home. I had also made some mentions of how easy it might be to drive to the hospital and get this baby cut out of me and have this labor business be over with! Thankfully he never let me get too caught up in these fantasies and got me back on track.
On Wednesday morning, we decided to send Annika out for the day with her Safta and to get ourselves out of the house as well. We went to a nice local restaurant that we had been wanting to try for a long time. On our way in, I told Phil I was nervous about experiencing contractions while in a restaurant. I told him that we should ask for a secluded table away from other diners. At this point, my contractions had again slowed, but they still required my concentrated breathing and relaxation and they were coming about every 10 minutes. As we walked in, I was relieved to see that the restaurant was practically empty, except for one table of women. Though the owner was walking us to the opposite, very empty side of the restaurant, Phil decided to say ‘Can we please sit away from other diners? My wife is in labor’. The owner gave a very petrified glance and me and begged, “Please don’t have it here.” Thankfully we had a very quirky waitress that didn’t even notice my ‘strange’ behavior. I ate a hearty steak for lunch, Phil thought it would give me good protein energy for my endless labor. After lunch we headed to the mall again. We walked around quite a bit and even bought a cute pair of shoes for Annika. The mall was crowded with holiday shoppers, but no one really seemed to notice me. At one point, I was leaning over a banister and asked Phil if it would look inappropriate to have him push against my lower back for a contraction, as they were coming on hard again. He did it and I lost interest in whether we would look strange. Things were intensifying, so I asked if we could head home.
Late in the evening, my contractions were strong and close together. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, not sure I could survive another night of intense labor to only watch the sun rise the following day, still pregnant and in pain. I finally decided that we had to call the midwives again, knowing that I needed their support and had to make something happen soon. I really wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this, as I hadn’t slept in days and my body was exhausted. That evening my dad was over, which was strange because my mom was here too. They were cordial, thankfully, and my dad pitched in by massaging me and pushing my back. In fact, I had trained everyone in the house (Phil, mom, dad, midwives) on how I needed the counter-pressure applied, so that as soon as a contraction came on, I assumed a leaning forward position and demanded that someone ‘push my back!’. D came over late in the evening with her partner midwife, S. I recognized S from a ‘meet the midwives’ event that ICAN (The International Cesarean Awareness Network) had held over a year ago. I remember that I had liked her when I met her at that time. D and S took action, ordering my dad and Annika to leave and my mom to go to bed. They wanted me to get focused and relaxed. Over the course of the night, they alternately massaged and coached me. I was only 5-6 cm dilated when they arrived, which was horribly disappointing. They promised me that my body was doing its work and encouraged me to work through the contractions lying on my side, which was incredibly painful. They said that the more painful contractions were doing the most work, and tried to get me to relax and give in to them.
At around 2am, I was on my knees leaning on the bed with D applying my back pressure and Phil talking to me from the bed. During my contraction, my water broke and when I looked up, V hopped on to the bed. I was so relieved to see her there and to feel my water breaking. I figured finally things would get moving. A few hours later I was checked and was 7-8 cm dilated. I remember questioning them on the 7-8…am I 7 or 8? Am I really closer to 7 but you don’t want to make me feel bad so you say 7-8? I was so worn down and really couldn’t imagine why my body was working so slowly. However, during the entire time the midwives and Phil reminded me that my body was working and my baby was coming. I told myself that this had to end sometime, I couldn’t be pregnant and in labor forever. In the wee hours of the morning I started feeling overwhelming urges to push and started doing so for a while. V checked me and said I was around 8-9 cm dilated but that I had a cervical lip and that my cervix and the baby’s head were swelling due to my pushing. She wanted me to lie down on alternating sides for 30 minutes each and stop pushing. That was the longest hour of my life and I swore they were not watching the time carefully. It was so hard to lay there while my body felt like it was being torn apart and to not push when that’s all I wanted to do. Most of the night the midwives were placing drops of herbs and homeopathic tablets under my tongue.
At one point while lying on the bed, I had the tens unit (electrodes) on my lower back, acupuncture needles throughout my body, and 2 midwives and Phil massaging me and encouraging me. S talked to me about imagining my cervix opening and wanted me to chant ‘ooooopen’ during my contractions. Phil believes this meditation was a real turning point in my labor and says that he finally saw me physically relaxing and giving in to the birth. It was so hard, I am almost in tears remembering these moments. V even had Phil pour me a shot of rum to help me relax. Towards the end, I shouted that I wanted to push so badly and V notified me that I already was pushing. Apparently I didn’t realize that even as I tried to fight it, I was still pushing. I just couldn’t control it. I had been shouting other things throughout this endeavor, some obscenities and some announcements about how much pain I was in. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t woken Annika. Finally, a chance at some relief, V offered me something to take the edge off my back pain. She wanted me to be able to focus my energy more on dilating and less on fighting the back labor. She said she could give me 4 injections of sterile water in my lower back. V said that different women have different reactions to this, some find the pain goes away while others feel no difference. Her warning was that with each injection I would feel intense burning for 30-45 seconds. I figured nothing could hurt more than my contractions and I had nothing to lose but some pain. The shots certainly burned, but nothing compared to the other back pain and shortly thereafter I felt some relief from the torture and was able to put more of my energy towards opening up.
After lying down for a while, I went out to the living room to rock on the birth ball and have V pushing on my back. The midwives had sent Phil to go eat, shower and sleep. My mom was sleeping on the couch when I got to the living room. I was so jealous of the sleepers! At various times in the night, I saw midwives, Phil and my mom sleeping all over the house. I remember thinking how lucky they were to have still bodies, I couldn’t imagine feeling nothing in my body and I wanted to so badly. After the birth ball, V said I should take a shower and then she wanted me to get outside and walk around in the back yard (I believe it was early morning). In the shower, the urge to push got the best of me. I ended up on my hands and knees pushing, and it hurt but felt so relieving at the same time. I got out of the shower and kept getting down and pushing with every contraction. At this point, I think V realized that the plans of delaying my pushing wouldn’t work much longer and that I was really worn down. She asked me if I was ready to do some hard work and I said ‘bring it on’. She said we were going to do something unconventional, some ‘assisted pushing’. Basically, I still had a cervical lip and she wanted to help me push past it. I squatted on the floor with S behind me, supporting me. V was in front of me and had her fingers inside me, feeling through my contractions. She said that I was moving the baby well while I pushed and that I could probably get her past the lip. She was using her fingers to guide my pushing so that I pushed effectively in the right direction to get her moving down. D was next to us, wiping my face and giving me drinks of water and snacks.
At some point, V asked if she could make a call and get an energy circle started. Again, I said ‘bring it on’. When she left the room for a moment, I turned to D and admitted that I had no idea what an energy circle was, but that I was open to anything they thought might help. I later learned that an energy circle consists of people calling each other like a phone tree, and sending positive energy and thoughts my way. Shortly after the circle got started, I was on the bed, pushing on my own and Olive began to crown. I couldn’t believe I was finally here, about to meet my baby. I think all the midwives were surprised at how quickly things were moving, as D suddenly went running out to wake Phil. Poor guy, woken out of a deep sleep and told that it was ‘go time’ he figured we were about to start pushing and that he’d be back on counter-pressure duty. Instead, he walked into the room, still rubbing his eyes and found me there with the baby starting to come out! I was given a mirror to look down and see her and suddenly it was all so real and so close. I asked if I could move on to my hands and knees (I had been on my side with S supporting my leg). It was amazing how my body took over and I just pushed instinctually. I reached down and felt her several times and knew she was almost here. Suddenly I had renewed energy and knew I could do anything. Once I pushed her head out, they had me slow down and push gently to get the rest of her body out. I immediately flipped onto my back and my sweet and beautiful baby Olive was placed on my stomach. She was working to release the fluid out of her throat, and in a few minutes was wailing. It was a glorious moment. I did it! My body rocks. 86 hours of labor and I vaginally delivered my baby! Later, while being sutured, I asked if my cesarean would be considered for future pregnancies even though I had just successfully VBACed. S assured me that I had a ‘proven pelvis’ now. V also said I had a ‘perineum of steel’. I need to get these things printed on bumper stickers for my car!
It was amazing to have my sweet, new tiny baby laying on my chest. She was so amazingly beautiful and perfect. She started nursing within about half an hour and did so like a champ. We quickly called my mom and told her to come home. Apparently she and Annika had just bought ice cream which my mom literally dropped when she got the call. Annika seemed a bit shocked and overwhelmed by what she saw when she came home (imagine going out for ice cream, and coming home to find a bunch of people in your parents’ room and this new bloody/slimy creature on your mom’s chest!). However, by evening she was holding her baby sister and admiring her tiny parts. Annika has turned out to be an incredible big sister who loves to hold Olive and help with her (she helps change her diapers, brings her blankets and picks out clothes for her). Annika has been very gentle and loving with Olive, it is so sweet. She has also grown and matured so much recently. She is getting better at entertaining herself and seems more understanding when her needs cannot be immediately met because mommy is tending to Olive.
I am so blessed and so lucky to have had this incredible experience. And I can’t wait to do it again!!
7lbs 9 oz
Editor's Note: This birth story is very special to me. As a woman who had a disastrous first birth experience that ended with a C Section, I know how much it meant to Jessica to have her VBAC. I am so proud of her and happy for her accomplishment.
I was due December 31, 2008 with my second son. I had made it clear
that I intended to do a trial of labor and hoped for a VBAC (vaginal
birth after cesarean), but by early December, I was having problems
with high blood pressure. On December 16, a Tuesday, not only was my
blood pressure once again stubbornly high, but there was +1 protein in
my urine. Figurative alarm bells went off. I was sent to have labs
drawn and go down to the hospital to be monitored. The hospital was
about 45 minutes away, and I had been there about a week and a half
before for the same reason and had been sent home within 90 minutes of
arriving. I figured surely everything would be fine again this time. I
called my neighbor to see if she could watch my older son while I made
my way down to the hospital to be checked out, assuming that I'd be
back in a few hours. I called my husband and told him not to bother
coming with me this time, since there wasn't any point in his missing
more work to watch me lie in the L&D triage room for 90 minutes again.
I went home and packed a few things to take with me in case I was
there a little longer than anticipated, then made my way to the
hospital. Once there, the four L&D triage rooms were all in use, so I
got to wait in an office with a couple of nurses while we waited for a
triage room to open up. There was no sense of urgency in my case,
really, and I kind of enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek at what the
nurses were doing when they weren't in the patient rooms. This was a
little after 3:00 P.M. on Tuesday.
When one of the other women was sent home (as I hoped to be in a few
hours), I was put into a triage room and hooked up to a blood pressure
cuff and fetal monitors again. I was having regular contractions,
though I couldn't feel them, really, and my blood pressure Would Not
Come Down. A nurse-midwife came in and did an internal check to see if
my cervix was dilated at all. Upon finding that I was about 4cm
dilated already, she declared "this baby is coming tonight! Let's get
First of all, my husband was 45 minutes away, my son had only very
temporary childcare, we were not expecting to have a baby just yet,
and, wait, I was only 38 weeks! I still had two weeks to prepare! My
mom would be there in a week. She was supposed to stay with my son.
What were we to do?!
Well, I called my husband, of course, and told him of the change of
plans. They intended to induce with Pitocin and were still quite
willing to allow me my trial of labor and VBAC attempt. But, I knew
that a Pitocin induction would increase my risk of c-section. I
decided to delay any other interventions as long as I possibly could,
hoping that would help me avoid the dreaded repeat c-section.
We decided the only possible course of action was for my husband to
bring our son with him to the hospital. As difficult as it would be
for me to have him there with me while I labored, and as problematic
it would be that my husband would have to mind our son instead of
being totally there with me in the labor and delivery, we couldn't
think of anyone else we could call upon who would be able to take our
son overnight. My mom was supposed to have been there!
They got me set up in an L&D room while my husband picked up our son
from daycare and drove down to the hospital. I was hooked up to an IV
for fluids and Pitocin, and they also said I'd need to be on magnesium
to help prevent seizures due to my blood pressure. The problem with
magnesium is that is is a muscle relaxant, also used to stop preterm
labor! So they would have to balance the magnesium and the Pitocin
carefully to make sure labor didn't stop while still ensuring I had
adequate protection from the risks of preeclampsia.
Another problem with magnesium is that it can cause you to retain
fluids dangerously, so they would have to very carefully monitor my
fluid intake and output while I was on it. This sounded inconvenient.
The biggest problem with magnesium, though, is that, as a relaxant, I
would be unsteady on my feet, and weak, and possibly unable to control
my muscles, and unable to properly care for a baby as long as I was on
it. This meant I would not be allowed to be alone in the room with the
new baby until I was able to come off the medication, which was the
absolute biggest concern I had. I had not successfully nursed my first
son, and this time, come hell or high-water, whether I needed a
c-section in the end or not, I had every intention of making
breastfeeding work. And if I couldn't room-in with the baby, how was I
to start a successful breastfeeding relationship? I was quite upset by
this news, but still determined to make it work somehow.
My husband arrived with our son. He had the foresight to bring PJs,
books, blankie, pacifier, and snacks for the little guy, who was very
well-behaved and charmed everyone with his sweet nature, general
cuteness, and amazing red curls. The nurses started taking bets on
whether the new baby would have such gorgeous hair, too.
My son's being there meant that I was a little distracted from this
whole labor business. I tried to remember to change positions, did not
request pain relief, and got up to pee when I had to. I was quite
surprised to find, however, that I was feeling almost no pain at all,
despite the use of Pitocin. I was contracting nicely, and my cervix
was opening, and everything that was supposed to happen was happening,
but where was the pain? It was nice, but surprising.
I was very concerned about frightening my son if I were to need to
yell, so I tried only to hum quietly when the contractions became
stronger. My husband took him out of the room when the doctor came in
to break my waters. She had trouble getting slack in the amniotic sac
because the baby's head was pressed right up against the cervix. He
was excited to come, unlike his reluctant brother! She eventually
popped the bag, and my waters came gushing out.
Then the pain started. I felt those contractions like a vise clamping
down on my abdomen. It was crazy. When I had to yell, we had my son
and husband yell along with me. He thought it was a great game (ah,
I had made some calls to friends and relatives to give them the news
before things got really intense. One of these calls was to my rabbi
and his wife. My rabbi's wife called back wondering where my son was
during all of this. I told her he was with us. She said she'd arrange
for someone to come and get him and bring him to her house for the
night. I was so relieved. I couldn't imagine what we were going to do
with him when things got really heated. I wasn't sure I wanted him to
witness the birth, but I also wanted my husband to be there with me!
A friend came to the hospital, and my husband met him outside,
switched the car seat to the friend's car, and sent our wonderful
child off to a bewildering night's stay with the rabbi.
My husband came back, and the relief of not having to worry about our
son meant that I was experiencing fully the insanity of
Pitocin-induced contractions. I remember one of the nurses saying that
they needed to increase my Pitocin, and the other one saying she
didn't want to do it because she had seen a uterine rupture. How
reassuring! But they did increase the Pitocin, and I couldn't bear it
anymore. I was 6cm dilated, which I thought was a pretty good
accomplishment right there. I asked for the epidural, and they sent
for the nurse anesthetist.
They had me get up to go pee one last time before the epidural. I have
my timeline a bit mixed up here (oddly enough), but I think my husband
had taken our son outside right about the time I asked for the
epidural, so that our son wouldn't be able to watch them do that. I'm
not exactly sure when he got picked up and taken back to the rabbi's
house, but it was not long after.
While in the bathroom, the contractions starting coming one after
another. It felt like one didn't even end before the next one began. I
couldn't believe the torture. I could barely walk back to the bed, and
when I got there, I started throwing up. The nurse said not to worry,
that I was just in transition and it would pass.
In the five minutes I had taken to pee, I had gone from 6cm to transition! Wow!
The nurse anesthetist was there, and he was able to do the epidural
despite my shaking, nausea, and general incoherence. The epidural was
perfect. It took away the pain but not all of the sensation. I could
still move my legs, and I could still feel that I was having
contractions, but it didn't hurt anymore. It was amazing.
Though I was fully dilated, they said I didn't have to start pushing
right away. The baby was fine, and he could labor down on his own for
a while so I didn't exhaust myself pushing when I didn't need to. This
was new to me, since the minute I had reached 10cm with our first
son's birth, they immediately had me start pushing. I liked this new
way better! I was able to rest a bit, kind of drowsy and groggy. It
was a little after midnight by then, I think, on Wednesday the 17th. I
had been in labor for a little over 6 hours. Right there, I was
already amazed by the contrast with my first labor, which took over a
day to get to this point!
Finally, they said I really did have to start pushing. He had come
down to +2 all on his own (what a guy!), but he needed help to come
the rest of the way. (This also is in contrast to my first labor,
where the little boy wouldn't even come out of the cervix - he was
stuck at -1 station the entire time I pushed!) I protested, enjoying
my relaxation, but they set up the table for delivery and called for
the doctor. He wasn't going to come out if I didn't do a little work!
The epidural was such that I was able to feel the need to push on my
own. So I pushed, and he came down a little. I pushed, and he came
down a little more. I pushed and pushed, and he kept coming almost
out, then sliding back in. After about half an hour of this (during
which there was a fair amount of "I can't do this!" and "I don't want
to push anymore!" whining out of me, as is apparently how I react to
the pain of labor), the doctor said he really was just about there,
but my perineum wasn't stretching quite enough, and he kept sliding
back in. She said probably just a little cut would let him come right
out. Now, an episiotomy was my second worst fear in childbirth, but if
it meant all of this would be over, and I would have my baby in my
arms, I was willing to do it. It was far less traumatic than a
A little cut, a few more pushes, and out he slid, a gorgeous, little,
bald baby boy, at 1:19 A.M., after only about 7 hours of labor and 39
minutes of pushing. I had done it! He was here! I could not believe
it. I couldn't! The placenta slid out a few minutes later, to my
surprise. In fact, I distinctly remember saying, "What was that?!" and
my husband reporting that it had been the placenta. For some reason, I
had thought I'd have to work harder to get that out. They took the
baby to be cleaned, diapered, Apgar-ed, weighed and measured - he was
only 7lbs., 6oz., almost two pounds lighter than his older brother had
been! - then brought him to me quite quickly and put him on my chest
for his first breastfeeding. I had no idea how to hold him, and the
doctor was still down below doing... something. I put him to the
breast. He latched on and sucked. I held him and held him and held him
and he nursed and nursed and nursed, and I knew this was how it was
supposed to be.
First of all, tending to him took my mind off my other end, where the
doctor was working busily stitching me up. Apparently, I was bleeding
quite heavily, and she was trying to get the bleeding stopped along
with sewing up the episiotomy and so on. It was not particularly
pleasant, but I had a very pleasant distraction!
I ended up staying in the L&D room for about four hours, and the new
baby lay on my chest, nursing, the whole time. They were looking for a
room on the maternity floor for me, and they were also still
monitoring my blood pressure. It started to come down, and stayed
down, and they decided they could take me off the magnesium and
instead give me oral phenobarbitol, an anti-hypertensive, instead.
Hooray!! No fluids monitoring! No fall hazard! I could keep baby with
Everything went very well the second time around, in great contrast to
my first birth experience, and I look back on my second birth very
7 lbs, 6 oz
Jessica is a lovely mother of two boys expecting her third (boy!) in a few months. She is a wealth of knowledge regarding VBACs and car seat safety. I am grateful for Jessica's contribution to this blog and would like to direct you to her blog if you would like to read more of her work: http://jessicaonbabies.blogspot.com/