Nili’s Story- VBAC


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 Leora Yael’s Birth Story

Born 5/16/10 7:38a

Leora’s birth was truly an incredible experience from start to finish.  Following many challenges with Eliana’s birth and my ultimate c-section, I struggled to deal with and process what had happened. With Eliana, I had longed for a natural delivery and ended up having anything but.  I was scared of wanting my VBAC too badly for fear of total disappointment if it didn’t work out as I had planned.  At some point early on in my pregnancy, I realized that the psychological piece of things was paramount for me and I needed to work through some of my fears and anxieties if this birth was going to be the one that I desired…

 I had heard of Hypnobirthing from friends who had used it with great success, and I decided to look into it to see if it could help me.  Chris, my favorite midwife, referred me to her own Hypnobirthing instructor, Sara Shelley, and after an initial conversation with her, I decided that this could be good for me.  I purchased the book and poured through it with gusto.  The more I read, the more the philosophy spoke to me.  I felt as if it was speaking directly to me and to what had happened during my birth with Eliana.  The descriptions of how fear can cause one’s body’s to tense brought me right back to my labor with Eliana, and it suddenly made so much sense to me how my own anxieties might have caused me to essentially be fighting what my body was trying to do—give birth!

Reading the book, I loved seeing the descriptions of exactly what a woman’s body is doing during labor.  It fascinated me seeing the descriptions of the way that the muscles in one’s uterus work together to effectively dilate one’s cervix.  During my labor with Eliana, I had had prodromal labor—which is essentially a LONG labor where you have contractions, but where your cervix is not “effectively dilating”.  When I read the description of how the uterus is supposed to work, it suddenly clicked for me how tension can interfere with this very natural process. One reading of the book was all it took to hook me.  I knew that committing myself to a program which focused on training one’s self to be relaxed, peaceful, and calm, would undoubtedly be one of the greatest challenges that I had ever undertaken, but I was ready—I had an intuitive sense that this was right for me—This was truly what I needed and had sought in order to make my pregnancy and birth the joyous experience that I longed for.

After reading the book, I excitedly shared with Ezra my enthusiasm for the program, and I eagerly awaited my first meeting with Sarah.  While the book was great, it still seemed a bit vague to me as far as exactly how to go about doing the relaxation excercises and the breathing.  Also, I had often found that when I tried to do the relaxation cd at night before bed (when I of course was exhausted), I promptly fell asleep! I was hopeful that meeting with Sarah would help, and I was right!

During our first meeting, Sarah listened thoughtfully as I shared the details of my birth experience with Eliana and my concerns about this upcoming birth.  As I spoke about my desire for a VBAC, I found it difficult to do so without bursting into tears, as even voicing the desire for this type of positive birth experience made me terrified that I would feel total disappointment if things were not to work out as I had planned. Sarah spoke with me about being willing to release control—this was something that I’ve never been very good at, but the idea resonated with me.  As a religious person, the idea that ultimately this birth experience was in G-d’s hands and not my own was an important one for me.  I knew that I would do everything I could to prepare myself both mentally and physically for a vaginal birth, but that one of my mental challenges would be to also accept that it was ultimately not in my hands.

Releasing control was a big part of Hypnobirthing for me.  The relaxation cd’s that I had worried I would not be able to make time for, became a daily part of my routine.  Only about 15-20 minutes long., I found that to my surprise, I actually enjoyed and looked forward to this time.

At 34 weeks, the midwives started suggesting that perhaps Leora was “measuring too small”, and they wanted me to go for an ultrasound.  I began reciting the affirmation that: “my baby is the right size for me and my body”, and found that pretty soon I began to believe the words I was saying.  When subsequent ultrasounds showed that Leora was indeed on the small side, I began telling myself and others that Leora just knew how much I wanted a VBAC, and she wanted to make sure that I was going to have an easy delivery—she would do her BIG growing on the outside!

As the weeks and months went by, I truly was excited for this birth.  I loved meeting with Sarah, and I loved the fear release sessions that we did.  I found that this method of connecting with my subconscious fears was really helping me, and although I couldn’t explain exactly how or why, I just knew that I felt calmer then I had during many times in my life.  I also realized as the big day approached that I really was no longer scared of this birth.  I actually began to internalize the positive messages—and I even found myself inspired to start painting key words as affirmations for myself to bring with me to the hospital.  I painted words such as joy, peace, dream, love, calm, and hope, and as I did each painting I felt myself really connecting with each sentiment.  I was excited about bringing these with me to Leora’s birth.

Everything was going beautifully until I passed my due date.  I had promised myself that this time around, I would not plotz if the baby was late—I had even gone so far as to tell EVERYONE who asked, that I would be late, I even avoided sharing my due date with most people so that I wouldn’t feel stressed by “the date”.  Despite all of these good intentions, as I began to feel the strain of the pregnancy physically, my mental will power seemed to wane and the stress began returning.  I went to see Sarah when I was a few days past my due date, and we decided to do another fear release session.

Unlike the previous session where I had felt myself completely relax into my subconscious, and couldn’t even remember all of the words that Sarah guided me through, this time I heard the messages more clearly. As I began to share at the end, it became clear that I had been holding onto a fear of actually having the positive birth experience that I so desired.  It seems that I was worried that actually having that “great birth”, would in some way cast a negative light on my birth with Eliana—I had feelings of guilt—would she somehow feel that I didn’t value her birth, or that somehow her birth was less joyous to me?  Voicing this fear was powerful for me—I didn’t even realize that I had had it, but just saying it seemed to allow me to be ready to move on from it; In fact, in hindsight, I think that letting this go was a large part of what enabled me to let my body relax enough to give birth.

5 days past my due date (Thursday), I called my mother and suggested that I would actually like her to come down for the weekend.  I was still feeling the strain of being “late” and “really pregnant”, and I thought that her presence would help me,

By Friday night, I noticed that the Braxton Hicks “surges” were as close as 7 minutes apart.  I started to get excited as we sat at the table, and I was enjoying using the breathing that I had practiced for the surges.  The image of filling my belly like a balloon was extremely helpful, and as each surge came, I pictured myself helping my uterus do was it was trying to do—I reminded myself that I wanted to channel my oxygen down to my baby.  All of this really helped, and I found that the surges were not painful at all—just pressure sensations and I really started hoping that maybe this was it.

We went for a walk, and rather than speed things up, my surges petered out;  I was really disappointed and I shared with Ezra that I felt like this baby was never coming! I went to sleep on Friday night hoping that things would pick up again, but although I did feel some surges during the night in my uncomfortable sleeping state, still nothing regular.

All day Sat. I felt surges come and go, but in no particular pattern—During our shule (synagogue) services, Ezra was given the “pticha” honor—the honor of opening the ark which is supposed to help a man’s wife, “open up to give birth”.  It had actually worked with Eliana, and this time around I told Ezra to make sure he got this honor! We came home for synagogue, and I kept waiting…Still nothing until early evening.  This time the surges started coming, and they were getting closer together…Just as on Friday night, the surges weren’t painful, and felt only like strong pressure sensations.  I kept hoping that they would continue, but as the night progressed they seemed to space out, and yet again I was left disappointed that maybe this just wasn’t it.  I began thinking about taking castor oil, as the midwife had suggested that if I reached 41 weeks, it might be worth considering.  I also knew from Friday’s check-up that I was already almost 2 cm dialated and 90% effaced.  I knew that castor oil had a good chance of working, but I was dreading the idea of having horrible stomach pains, diarrhea, etc. all before what could be a difficult labor.

I couldn’t sleep, and finally went to bed at about 12:30pm.  At 2:15am, woke to go the bathroom, and came back to bed.  At 2:30am (convinced that much more then 15 minutes had passed!) I was awakened with a start as I felt a gush that I knew immediately was my water breaking…Ezra and I debated who to call, and finally decided to call our doula, Allison.  We shared with Allison our concerns that if we called the midwives that they would start timing my labor (Generally, one is given 24 hours from the time one’s water has broken until the time of delivery to avoid infections), and I wasn’t even having surges….

After sharing all of this with Allison, we made the decision (with her recommendation) to call the midwives anyways.  At this point, probably 20 minutes had passes, and I was beginning to feel the beginning of surges.  To my relief, when I got through to Terri, the midwife on call, she said that she didn’t see the need for me to rush in to the hospital and that she was ok with my waiting until 5am to come in.  I told her that I wanted to try and rest and see if the surges would pick up, and she agreed that this was a good plan.

Feeling relieved and less worried must have allowed my body to start doing what it needed to do as by the time I got off the phone with Terri and called Allison to tell her that we were going to wait a little while to go in, my surges were definitely present and starting to pick up pace.  It also quickly became clear that there was no need for castor oil, and as my body decided to empty itself out all on its own! Several trips to the bathroom later, the surges were getting more intense and closer together….With each breath, I would try and make the inhale take longer then the exhale, reminding myself that the surges I was feeling was my uterus expanding and then ultimately pushing on my cervix to help me dialate.  I wasn’t sure which position would help me best with the surges, but at some point I asked for the birthing ball and found that leaning over it with my knees and the floor and my arms draped over it seemed to help lessen the intensity of the surges.  By this point, things were speeding up, and by 3:30 it seemed pretty clear to both Ezra and myself that we should head into the hospital.  Because I was strep-B positive I knew that they already wanted me in the hospital sooner than other moms since I would need to receive anti-biotics during labor.  Ideally they try and fit in two doses spaced 4 hours apart before you give birth…

Surges were probably 3-4 minutes apart now, and Ezra hurried to get the bags packed and into the car…We had also woke my mother to let her know we would be leaving shortly, and to my relief she was actually really helpful at helping me to stay calm during the surges…

It was now close to 4:15am, and Ezra told me that we really needed to get into the car.  I still had memories of feeling horrible on the long car ride to Shady Grove (about 20 min.) while in labor with Eliana, and I was scared that while I had been coping nicely with the surges in the house, I wouldn’t know what to do in the car.  My mother reassured me that I would be fine, and Ezra and I headed out the door.  When I got to the car, I debated sitting in the backseat or even facing backwards and leaning against the front seat, but in the end decided to just sit in the front and to stick with the breathing that had been helping me so much thus far.

To my amazement, it seemed to work.  The whole way to Shady Grove I would tell Ezra when I felt a surge starting, and he would remind me to stay loose and limp.  As each one came I breathed deeply and expanded my belly like a balloon.  The carrirde wasn’t actually bad at all, and just before 5am we arrived at the hospital and met Allison.  She said I looked like I was doing great, and I sort of nodded, not wanting to upset my concentration by talking too much. When asked if I wanted a wheel chair, I said I preferred to walk, so the three of us slowly made our way towards the labor and delivery unit.  With each surge I would stop and sort of brace myself against Ezra while I breathed.  I made sure to keep the rest of my body relaxed, and avoided holding his hands as I had done in labor with Eliana.  I had realized that this made me tighten my hands, the opposite of staying “loose and limp”.  It took about 10 minutes, but we got upstairs and Ezra began dealing with the paperwork and registration…when they finally came to bring me to a room to check me, I was really focused in on the surges.

The rest of the labor starts to feel a bit like a blur, so I’ll try and capture the parts that I remember.  They asked me if I wanted a hospital gown, I said I preferred my own clothes.  I did take off my pants and underwear and immediately began leaking on the floor.  I remember feeling like I really didn’t care, and decided to just stay naked from the waist down.  Several nurses were there trying to set-up my long awaited telemetry monitor and I remember hearing some commotion about it not working properly.  They asked me to get into the bed for a few minutes while they got it set up, and while I had a hard time doing so (once I had found a rythem that was working, it was difficult to change it— Standing and leaning on Ezra had been working), I finally got there and continued my breathing.  By this point I was closing my eyes, and this really helped me to tune out the hustle and bustle that was going on in the room.  Both Terri and Sharon (the other midwife) were there, one nurse asking questions, one trying to set up the monitor, and another one helping her with the monitor.  There was also a tech that kept coming in and out.  I know this mostly from Ezra telling me as I honestly didn’t notice all of these people as I was concentrating only on the surges and had my eyes closed.

This must be where the Hypnobirthing hypnosis training kicked in, because I just remember feeling calm throughout all of this.  Even the discussions of getting me an IV and needing to try several times (I have a major needle phobia, so normally this would have completely agitated me!), didn’t rattle me.  The sensations of the surges were very intense, but I don’t remember really feeling PAIN—I remember it feeling like very intense and strong pressure, and I remember it being difficult, but I don’t remember intense PAIN.  They checked me when were first setting up, and to my relief and excitement I was between 5-6cm and I was fully effaced.

The rest seemed to move quickly—A while later I was checked again by Terri (standing since I couldn’t really move myself into another position), and I was 9cm!…I think that in the back of my head I knew that things were moving quickly, but it didn’t feel quick.

Soon I was feeling an intense urge to bear down with the surges, and when asked I told them that I couldn’t really help but push.  Allison suggested a deep throated moan with each surge, and I found these vocalizations to be helpful.  It was more like a deep grunt with each surge, but somehow it helped to have a voice for the sensation.  At this point they were still struggling to get the IV in as they kept wanting me to stay still during surges and I found this very difficult.  Ezra also told me that my hands were rather swollen, contributing to the difficulty.  They finally got it in, and at this point they said they really wanted me to get up on the bed to get checked.  I really didn’t want to be in the bed, but with the help of everyone, I somehow got myself there.  At this point, they also suggested giving me an oxygen mask as, well, I’m not exactly sure, but I assume they thought I needed more air!

When Terri checked me again, I was 10cm and they gave me the green-light to just work with my body.  The surges were extremely intense now and I just remember moaning deeply and loudly with each one.  I sort of remember feeling a little bit like some of the tv shows you watch with women making a lot of noise during birth, but I didn’t care.  At one point, Sharon cautioned me that my throat would be sore if I kept it up, but I didn’t care and couldn’t stop anyway.

I remember Sharon telling me to follow Terri’s instructions so that we could ease the baby out—I don’t really remember Terri saying too much, but what is most distinct is the feeling of burning that came next.  I had read so many books that I knew clearly that this MUST be the head crowning, and I finally got excited.  Somewhere in my brain, it clicked that if that was the head, SURELY this baby was going to come out!! While the burning was painful, I also had in my mind a memory of a book saying that at some point your body has a natural anesthesia which kicks in and the sensation will stop as the area goes numb.  I’m not really sure if that happened or not, but thinking that it would definitely helped me to cope with the sensation.  The midwives told me that I could reach down to feel the head, and I did.  It was wet and gooey, and I felt hair.  I couldn’t believe that this was truly happening.  The next thing I knew the head was out, and they told me to push a little more to get the body out.  It all happened so quickly that my eyes were still closed when Leora came out, and I just remember feeling a strong sense of relief and almost emptying as she came out.  I finally opened my eyes and they were holding her, and I heard her cry, and quickly she was placed on my stomach.

Finally, I had tears in my eyes and the only thing that I could say, over and over again, was: “I DID IT!!!”  I honestly couldn’t believe it—I repeated it so many times.  Dr. Martin came into the room as he was there to supervise Terri as well, and the birth had apparently happened so fast (7:38am, only 2 and ½ hours after our arrival!) that he had missed it.  I said to him with a huge smile: “I DID IT! SEE! I didn’t need you this time!!) I remember he sort of smiled at me and seemed pretty happy to not be needed.

I was a little worried about delivering the placenta, but it happened quickly and easily and to my surprise, when they asked if I wanted to see it, I actually did! Usually things like this completely gross me out and I am very squeamish, but somehow the site of this lumpy, gooey, bloody mass that had nourished my beautiful baby for 9 months was actually extraordinary to me.  Leora was still on my chest, and then they took her to be checked, etc.  I finally became aware of all the people in the room, and all I kept saying was: “I DID IT!”.  I felt like I couldn’t say it enough times.  Terri then came to check me, and I do remember being worried about needing stiches.  When she said: “wow! No tearing!”, I couldn’t believe it.  I had actually had my VBAC and wouldn’t even need the dreaded stiches that I had assumed were a requisite part of the experience.  I was on cloud 9.

Allison came over to help me latch Leora on, and there we were—breastfeeding.  It took several tries, but finally we got it, and I felt so happy, so calm—pure joy.

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