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Jen’s VBAC

Disclaimer: I have included a lot of very personal information that I would not probably share if you and I were talking face to face.  I disclose so much because I hope that my experience with help other women during their pregnancies and labors. There is no Right Way to labor and labors differ so much from woman to woman. One of things I found especially helpful during my first pregnancy was reading lots of different birth stories. It gives you a better idea of the wide range of possibilities, labor “types,” coping mechanisms, and birth philosophies.

Let’s bring you up to speed . . . After having a cesarean section with my daughter in April 2004 via a low transverse incision, I knew I wanted a VBAC for my next child. It was only after a couple years of reading and researching did I start to consider, and ultimately decided, to plan a homebirth VBAC (HBAC.)34 Weeks, 2 Days PG with #2!

This pregnancy was so different than my daughter’s and I attribute that to several things. First, the superior prenatal care I received from my midwife, L.  One of the major discomforts many women experience during pregnancy is constipation.  I suffered my entire first pregnancy, but the solution is so simple: fish oil, flax seed oil, and a calcium/magnesium supplement daily.  I was also aware of optimal fetal positioning this time around, which I knew nothing about with my first.  I think my daughter was in a footling breech presentation because I was working from home three days a week with a computer on my lap, sitting in a recliner for 8-10 hours a day. I now know that this position contributes to a variety of abnormal presentations including breech. This pregnancy, being a full-time mom, I don’t spend much time on the sofa anymore and most of my time on my feet.

In addition to contributing to a vertex baby, being an SAHM affected me a couple of other ways. First, during my pregnancy with my daughter, I was very conflicted over whether to quit my job or not. That stress was not present this time. Second, I didn’t have the general stress associated with working full-time. Being a SAHM is stressful, but it’s a different kind of stress and, for me, it’s far less stressful than working full-time. So, my overall stress level was lower and I was more peaceful. Enrolling in a Hypnobabies home study course also contributed to my overall mentality of peace and confidence. I did not have problems sleeping because I fell asleep to the Hypnobabies scripts every night. This daily relaxation, and slow rewriting of those often incorrect deeply held beliefs about pregnancy and labor, put me in the perfect state of mind. I experienced fewer aches and pains and my body felt fantastic until about the last week of pregnancy. I attribute this to exercising 2-3 times per week and seeing an Osteopath (DO) who specializes in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine or OMM. Not only did this eliminate back and hip pain, but she also ensured that my pelvis remained aligned providing the baby with the largest pelvic outlet, and hopefully shortening my labor. (Find a DO near you.)

I was so pleased that the baby was vertex, or head down, at every prenatal appointment. At 36 weeks, I started to get a little worried about the baby’s position, but L confirmed that baby was still vertex and at 38 weeks, the baby was engaged in my pelvis. I was thrilled!

In the wee hours of the morning on Friday, November 16, 2007, I woke up to a growling stomach. I laid in bed for about 15 minutes before decided to get something to eat. I had some cheese and then some yogurt and then got sucked into the latest ER. I look back now and wonder if my body was preparing itself to go into labor in just a few hours.

At 511am I woke up to a contraction, probably lasting about 30 seconds. I grabbed my iPod and started listening to my Hypnobabies scripts. After a couple more contractions, I sent a quick email to L and a friend letting them know that I thought labor was underway! My husband, T, started waking up. He had a meeting that afternoon to transfer his projects to coworkers since he planned to take two weeks off once the baby was born. I told him that he should go in now and move the meeting to the morning – labor had begun! He quickly got dressed, gave me several kisses, and ran out the door.

One of the Hypnobabies scripts has you envision your labor: when it will start, what the weather is like, who is there, where you are, every detail. One of the things I always envisioned was labor beginning after a good night’s rest! And despite my midnight snack and TV watching, I felt rested and very calm. I stayed in bed for about an hour, having another 4 contractions during that time, and then my daughter, K, woke up. Time to start the day! I told her how I was having “belly squeezes” and she knew that this meant that she had to be very quiet during belly squeezes. For the next 90 minutes, I ran around the house, trying to clean with contractions coming about every 3 – 5 minutes. That last week, I had been so tired that I had completely neglected the housekeeping and I wanted to at least pick up a bit.

At 8am, I called my midwife and, as luck would have it, she was with another client in labor! After a couple minutes of chatting, she said, “Oh, we are pushing here!” and we agreed to chat later in the day.

I hopped in the shower and then starting actually tracking contractions at 817am. For the next two hours, K and I labored. It felt best to lean over the countertop in the kitchen, push/lean against the wall standing, or fall to my hands and knees. I was quietly using my Hypnobabies cue, “Peace” over and over again and K, right next to me, would be copying my position and saying, “Peace.” She would also rub my legs, which I gently told her to stop – I don’t like being touched during a contraction. She was really great during that time and contractions where coming about every 4-5 minutes lasting about a minute.

I called T at 9am and pleaded that he hurry up! He had coworkers around his desk and they were having the meeting as we spoke. Yeah! I settled into the guest room where we had the tub set up and started playing my Hypnobabies scripts through my iPod speaker. T got home at 10am and started tracking the contractions and filling the birth tub. At 11am, I got Jen in birth tub in the tub for the first time. It felt great until I had a contraction. My contractions were going down my thighs, almost like a leg cramp, so lying down was horribly painful. I needed to have that counter-pressure created my standing on my legs. That felt more comfortable. In addition, my contractions slowed down to 6-7 minutes apart and even two that were 12 minutes apart. Despite this, I stayed in the tub for about an hour because it did feel so good between contractions.

Around this time, we called a friend and asked if she could pick up K and take her to another friend’s house who was going to watch her for the day. K, trying to be so sweet and supportive, wanted to get into the birth tub with me but that would certainly disrupt my concentration. It was time for her to go. At 1150pm, we noticed some bloody show in the tub. Yeah! Progress! As T installed K’s car seat into our friend’s car at noon, I started to vocalize and moan. Labor was intensifying. Once T came back, I got out of the tub and tried a few contractions on the birth ball which were ok, but standing still felt the best to me, so that is that I continued to do. At 1240pm, my contractions started double-peaking. I had more bloody mucous at 1250am and I started to have hot and cold flashes.

I had tried a few times earlier in the day to labor in bed, and it just was to painful, but I decided I needed to refocus and try my Hypnobabies again by lying down in a fully supported position so I could completely relax. I became very sensitive to sound. Hearing the crunch of the plastic sheeting as T walked down the hall was excruciating to me. Within minutes, my water broke and I immediately thought, “Ok, things are going to intensify even more now.” It was shortly after 1pm.

I got up and quickly walked down the hall to the shower feeling something bulging between my legs. Reaching down, I felt an almost C-shaped balloon. I wondered if it was the cord but it wasn’t pulsing and as soon as I got into the shower, it broke – it was the rest of the amniotic sac. Being in the shower felt good for a microsecond and then the shower massage setting started to bother me and I didn’t have the mental clarity to fuss with it or tell T. I walked from the shower back to the birth tub and decided to give this another try. While this was going on, T called L to fill her in. She was finishing up the other birth at the birth center and was on her way. At 130pm, I told T to stop using the kitchen timer, which we were using to time contractions, because the beep was driving me crazy. I was laboring in the tub on my hands and knees and I lost any sense of time. I turned to T at one point and said, “I can’t do this.” I started to get scared and really felt like it wasn’t ever going to end. T was so incredible. He told me, “This is all going according to the book. It’s all normal. You are doing great.” We had this conversation at least a couple times. It was the most vulnerable moment of my life and he helped me cope. He was so calm, collected, and confident. What a moment to share. No else there. Just the two of us, laboring, coping, supporting – it was tremendously intimate and private. Just like I wanted.

Around 230pm, L and her apprentice C arrived. I was so relieved because I was starting to feel the urge to push and it seemed to me that L walked in, put on a glove, and then was supporting my perineum as I pushed on my hands and knees in the tub. There was no need to check my dilation since L could easily see a purple line leading up to my Birth Stoolsacrococcygeal joint -the presence of this line meant I was fully dilated. Labor was so intense at this point that I started to yell at the beginning of each contraction which was excruciatingly painful. I also was using the F word a lot and was very relieved that K wasn’t there. If I had been able to be more serene and calm, like I envisioned, it would have been wonderful to have K there, but I was far from serene. :) And I really resisted starting to yell, but it did feel so good to just channel that energy out of my body. I felt like there was this power going through me and I had to expel it and yelling helped me do that.

Nature is kind and my contractions spaced out quite a bit giving me a nice break between pushing. I remember being in the tub, on my hands and knees, with my eyes closed, slowly waging my head back and forth. This was very soothing to me.

It amazed me how much power was flowing through me. It’s quite humbling to see your body work so hard. It knows exactly what it’s doing – you are simply along for the ride following your instinct on positions and pushing. It seemed that my contractions peaked very quickly and then I had about 75% of the pain which felt manageable. What was very difficult was to try to recover from that peak of pain, take a breath, and then push before the contraction ended. After about 20-30 minutes of pushing on my hands and knees, L suggested getting out of the tub and pushing in a squat. I was willing to try anything at that point, but since my contractions were going down my legs, I couldn’t support myself in a squat position, so I got on the birthing stool which I loved. Things seemed to progress very quickly at this point and I got to experience the legendary ring of fire.

It seemed to me that he was born within one of my super-long contractions. At one point, I Sweet relief! reached down and felt the head just as it started to emerge and that was the most wild feeling. Soon, I heard L say, “I see lots of hair!” and then “I see ears!” Once I felt the ring of fire, I knew I wanted this over fast. Plus, the notion of his head half-way out for any longer than necessary was unbearable. As soon as the head was born, relief swept over my body. The next push, the body was born. Within 30 minutes of moving to the birth stool, at 328pm, M was born.

It quickly became obvious why things were so painful – M was a big baby at 9 lbs, 10 oz, and 21 inches… but it was the fact that his head was 14 inches in circumference, not including the nuchal hand – his hand was up by the side of his head. Yet, I, a VBAC mom with an “unproven pelvis,” was able to birth this baby, whose weight placed him in the 95th percentile, resulting in just a couple labial tears requiring 4 stitches, and an intact perineum.  I felt victorious.

Nov 16 2007 034As soon as he was born, L put him right in my arms. I was in complete shock that I did it. I could not believe that I finally gave birth! Immediately L noticed that I was bleeding to much. She told me she was going to give me a shot of Pitocin in my leg. Within a minute or so, she gave me another shot in my other leg. I moved from off the birth stool into bed and while I started to nurse the baby, they gave me a couple doses of Placenta Out. I wasn’t feeling any urge to push, but L was concerned about my continued bleeding, so I tried to push the placenta out as I laid in bed. My legs were so tired, and I was so tired, and after pushing on the birth stool, pushing on my back in bed felt impossible. I remember wondering how anyone could push a baby out lying down. So, I scooted to the edge of the bed where I pushed more and the placenta was finally born. Turns out it had partially separated so all the blood that would usually go into the placenta was just flowing out of my body.

While this was all going on, I thought of a birth story I had read in Midwifery Today where a midwife experienced a post-partum hemorrhage. She described how she felt so warm and comfortable – how she just wanted to close her eyes and go to sleep. I never felt that way, so I wasn’t scared plus I had complete confidence in L. We were talking the whole time and I felt alert, strong… not scared. L attributed how well I handled the hemorrhage to the “green” supplements (alfalfa, spirulina, or chlorophyll) she recommends during the third trimester. This builds up the vitamin K in the mom’s body so her blood clots better and aids in her body’s ability to cope with, and recover from, hemorrhage. She also gave me a pill of Methergine which caused some rather intense uterine contractions, but helped further reduce the bleeding. The entire time, I was able to hold and nurse M.

L and C stayed at the house for several hours cleaning up, inspecting the placenta, making placenta prints, conducting the newborn exam, suturing me up, and observing me and M.

My mom asked me the next day, “Are you glad you had a homebirth?” and the answer is “Yes!” for so many reasons. Now that I’ve had a homebirth, I simply could not imagine birthing in a hospital. It was so incredible to just have people I know and trust at the labor. No random nurses. No shift changes. It was incredibly intimate to share the bulk of my labor with just my husband. I loved being in my own home, using my own bathroom and when I wanted to take my clothes off and just be naked, I could do so without worrying about whether I had a private room or not, and who would be walking in. I also doubt I would have been able to labor and deliver in so many different positions. I’m certain my local hospital does not have a birthing stool. A doula friend of mine talked about how she attended a hospital labor where despite the fact that there was a poster on the wall showing various labor and delivery positions, the nurses insisted the mom labor in bed and deliver in bed, on her back. The difference between marketing and reality are gigantic.

I also couldn’t imagine laboring with a heplock or IV in my arm. Some friends of mine made a “birthing bracelet” where they each contributed beads representing them and their families for me to wear during labor. I wore it till 10am and then took it off because I couldn’t stand having something around my wrist. Now imagine a heplock, complete with medical tape securing its position. That would have driven me nuts.  Since lying in bed was excruciating, I would have been miserable in the hospital since my OB required 20 minutes of external fetal monitoring every hour for VBAC moms. (This is actually a very liberal requirement since most OBs require continuous fetal monitoring the entire labor limiting your movement.) That alone would have had me begging for my epidural. A friend birthed her son with a nuchal hand and once her OB saw that hand, he gave her a nice big episiotomy. I wonder if the same would have happened to me if I was in the hospital especially if the OB suspected a “big baby.” I also would not have been able to labor in the tub, if there was even a tub available to me, after my water broke. I would not have felt comfortable yelling, and ultimately screaming the last 10 minutes, if I felt that random medical professionals and fellow patients could hear me. I wonder how the stress of transporting to the hospital, checking in, and “getting settled” would have affected my labor. Would being in an unknown environment cause labor to slow down or stall? Would it have lengthened my labor since stress hormones inhibit progress? I suspect that if I was in the hospital and hemorrhaged, there would have been loads of drama and I wouldn’t have been permitted to hold my baby while they got the bleeding under control. Whereas, L handled things beautifully, calmly, and in complete control.

I’m so glad I didn’t have any vaginal exams checking dilation during those last few weeks of pregnancy. Women, especially second time moms, can walk around 2-5 cm dilated for weeks. It really means nothing in terms of predicting when labor will start. Your cervix can also be high and closed and you can go into labor that night.  You can decline vaginal exams during pregnancy and labor. I’ve read to many stories of women working so hard during labor only to find out they are 3 cm – this does not keep you in the best mental state during labor. I spent my labor coping contraction by contraction trying not to think “How much longer is this going to last?!”

I’m also glad I had no idea how big he was. With all the worries about “big babies,” loads of women are coerced into believing elective cesarean deliveries are safer even though ACOG’s Practice Bulletin No. 22 does not recommend inductions or cesareans for suspected big babies less than 11 lbs. Or they are simply terrified of childbirth and it’s just an excuse. This is so sad that women in our society are so scared of a normal event. That said, I know if I knew how big he was, that would have affected my mindset during labor, especially during pushing. I probably would not have been able to fully relax and I might have torn my perineum. If I had an OB, I wonder if s/he would have suspected “big baby” and ordered an ultrasound resulting in a weight estimate and then a discussion about “what do to” especially since I’m a VBAC mom and some OBs have extra fear when a VBACing mom has a suspected big baby.

It was great knowing that L, C and I were all on the same page. I didn’t have to decline or request a thing. They already knew what I wanted and didn’t want so there was so need for unnecessary discussion in the heat of labor. I simply could not imagine having to debate an unwanted intervention in the mist of that pain.

And speaking of pain, I am no hero. My heroes are the women who birth in hospitals and manage to do it without pain medications. If I was in the hospital with drugs immediately available, I don’t know if I would have been able to decline drugs. I suspect that I would have ultimately received some type of drug.  I knew that my best chance of having a successful vaginal birth was if labor progressed naturally, without outside interferences such as pain meds or drugs like Pitocin to hasten labor. And I knew home would be the only place I could guarantee that happening.

Recovery has been so incredibly different. Within an hour of giving birth, I was able to get out of bed, walk to the bathroom and urinate. No catheter. No “recovery room.” No waiting to eat or drink. No waiting for the spinal to wear off. No uncontrollable itching (a side effect of my spinal), requiring IV administration of Benadryl and morphine causing me to pass out in the mist of a huge visit of friends and family. No itchy IV and associated tubes. The ability to immediately hold and nurse my baby.

No hospital food. I had fresh made-to-order scrambled eggs and lemonade. No hospital bed. Just our comfy guest bed with our own sheets. No machines beeping recording my vitals. No nurses waking me in the middle of the night to get my vitals. No baby in the bassinet across the room from me, which, since walking was so painful, might as well have been across the hospital. M was snuggled up right next to me. No need to take major painkillers. While my enormous hemorrhoids and four stitches were relatively painful, I didn’t even take an Aleve until the second night of M’s life and I’ve only taken 5 Aleve this first week. Compare that with taking Vicodin 24/7 the first two weeks of K’s life and that still not eliminating the pain. It’s been 8 days since M was born, and while I am tired, I feel like me. I didn’t feel like myself for months after K was born. My body is not healing from major surgery. My nether-regions are healing nicely and I’m able to walk and sit without any discomfort. 8 days post-partum with K, I was still in considerable pain especially when trying to maneuver in bed. It was also amazing to be mentally clear at delivery – I had narcotics pumping through my system when K was born, so the intensity of the moment was dulled and that makes me so sad.

There is one other huge difference. This time, I actually gave birth and felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I was so devastated that I had to have a cesarean with my daughter. I was so looking forward to labor and giving birth and when that was taken from me. . . I was devastated. There are women who have had cesareans and feel like it was a birth – I’m just not one of them. K was surgically extracted from my body… which is very different than being born. And I felt like there was this huge thing that I hadn’t experienced which contributed to what made me a woman and a mom.

M’s experience was also very different than K’s. The first people to touch her where a bunch of random, anonymous people we didn’t know and wouldn’t recognize on the street because they were in full surgical garb. L guided M out of my body and then handed him immediately to me. K had a long tube stuck down her nose a couple times to get fluid out even though she had good muscle tone, was pink, was a term birth, and was crying, and thus clearly breathing on her own. M had no suctioning of any kind as it wasn’t necessary and nothing is done “routinely” at a homebirth.

There were no nurses asking to take M for “routine” procedures. K was rubbed vigorously and “cleaned.” M was held lovingly by me . He smelled so wonderful as is. No bath. No wiping off the vernix. This is absorbed into their skin. There is no need to “clean” the baby other than wiping away blood. “Early bathing of the baby removes vernix, which contains antimicrobial proteins that are active against group B. streptococcus and E. coli. Delaying the bath and keeping the newborn together with his or her mother until breastfeeding is established may prevent some cases of devastating infections caused by these bacteria.” (Akinbi, 2004)

We delayed clamping the cord until it stopped pulsing – something that was in my birth plan for K’s birth, but didn’t happen. I suspect because it was routine to immediately clamp and cut the cord. M got the benefit of all the blood from the placenta, whereas K did not.

M got all the benefit of the good bacteria present in our home: “Term infants born at home and breastfed exclusively had the highest numbers of bifidobacteria [good bacteria] and the lowest numbers of C. difficile and E. coli [pathogenic/ bad bacteria] compared with any other group of infants.” (Penders, 2006) Whereas K was exposed to all the bad bacteria present in hospitals: “Each day of hospitalization after birth was associated with a 13% increase in the rate of colonization with C. difficile.” (Penders, 2006)

All of these interventions can collectively interfere with breastfeeding. “Vigorous suctioning can create oral aversion as the baby protects himself by keeping his mouth shut (Kroeger & Smith, 2004). Overstimulating the baby with multiple assessment examinations, suctioning, weighing and measuring, heel sticks for glucose checks, eye treatment, and injections can cause the baby to “shut down.” The result is a sleepy baby that is difficult, if not impossible, to nurse. Routinely separating babies from their mothers for evaluation and bathing during the minutes and hours after birth disrupts the baby’s ability to find the breast and self-attach (Righard & Alade, 1990). Bathing possibly removes the smell of the amniotic fluid, a guide to finding the nipple. These birthing practices—induction, epidurals, instrument delivery, routine newborn care, and separation of the mother and her baby—create many of the problems we see in the early hours and days of breastfeeding.” (Lothian, 2005)

While I had considerable problems nursing K – undoubtedly from my inverted nipples, the suctioning she endured, the surgery and resulting drugs pumping through both of our systems, being separated from me immediately after birth and for that first hour – I had no problems nursing M. He was placed skin-to-skin on my chest and latched on.

Even though I felt a lot more than just “pressure” during my labor, I am very glad I did the Hypnobabies home study. First, it helped me learn how to relax. When I was pregnant with K, we did Bradley and they said to relax for 15 minutes a day. It might sound weird, but I didn’t know how to relax other than watching TV or reading a book… and taking a bath every night seemed like a big waste of water. Hypnobabies helped me learn how to relax my body from head to toe and this relaxation helped me sleep better. This ability to relax, and concentrating on not tensing my face and hands, was helpful in early labor. There were also times when I started to get nervous about VBAC. The fear of wondering if I was crazy to homebirth. The fear of me being that statistic. Hypnobabies has a great VBAC CD set that helped put my mind at ease. And during labor, the thought of uterine rupture only crossed my mind once in early labor.

There were several tools I found very helpful that I learned from Hypnobabies. I loved the “peace” cue and used that a lot in early labor. Just quietly saying it almost like meditation. Even more, I loved the phrases, “your cervix is like melting butter” and “your cervix is so soft and stretchy,” and saying “open, open, open” while visualizing my cervix opening. I did this a lot. It’s hard for your body to tense when your cervix is melting like butter. I was also very aware of keeping my body as relaxed as possible during contractions and was able to do this for the bulk of my labor. It was only until the last 90 minutes when it was impossible to remain still and peaceful.

During pushing, I had the “Second Stage” script playing and at one point it says, “Anesthesia is flowing in front of your baby’s head.” At that moment, I was in a tremendous amount of pain and was not feeling any anesthesia, so hearing that really bothered me and I yelled, “It’s so fucking not!!”

Eight days later, we are adjusting. Breastfeeding has been established. K, at 3 years, 7 months old, is my big nursling now and I’m so glad that she has continued nursing. Adjusting to M has been hard for her. She is affectionate towards him, but has had lots of crying over random things and sometimes over nothing at all. Nursing has been a way for us to reconnect and have some special time after having so much of my time focused on M. I have explained to her how it was because M was born that I have milk – I’m hoping that this will ease this transition for her. Additionally, having an older nursling is invaluable when managing initial engorgement. M does have a touch of jaundice, but is doing great.

We are cloth diapering using the same wonderful diapers I used for K – Motherease Sandy’s, OneSize, and FuzziBunz – all of which I purchased used off of eBay making cloth diapering even more cost efficient. (Believe it or not, I spend more time telling people how easy it is to cloth diaper, than actually washing the diapers. It is a piece of cake and no midnight runs to the store because you are out of diapers! Plus, no poop “blow outs” or “up the back” poops – the only time this has happened to me is when K was wearing disposables. Cloth diapers are more fitted and thus you don’t have this kind of leaks!)

I owe so much to the wonderful women of the ICAN YahooGroup. In a world where people really believe that VBAC is risky and cesarean birth is safe, it is refreshing to be in a community of women all seeking VBAC. The information available to anyone who joins this group is absolutely invaluable if you plan on having a successful VBAC. There is so much research published continuously on VBAC, repeat cesareans, and birth in general, that it’s virtually impossible for anyone to stay on top of it.  With so many (mostly) women coming together, sharing information from a multitude of resources – it is a must for any woman seeking a normal vaginal birth, not just VBAC. And while we are on the topic of supporting normal vaginal birth, why not join ICAN and help them further their mission of preventing unnecessary cesareans, supporting women who seek VBAC, and also providing post-cesarean support as well as post-VBAC joy? I became a Childbearing Member about a year ago which is a small way to support their mission. This is an organization that works so hard to advocate for a woman’s right to seek normal birth and not be bullied into surgery which is what happens every day around our country especially in more rural areas where the only hospital in town has “banned” VBAC.

Nov 16 2007 048Thank you to my wonderful friends, some of whom I suspect think I’m completely nuts for doing this, but most of whom where enthusiastically supportive understanding how important vaginal birth is.

Thank you to my incredible husband who trusted in my research and supported me every step of the way. After M’s birth, T told me that unless I was dying, he wasn’t going to let me transfer to the hospital because he knew how much it meant to me to birth our child. I never once asked to go to the hospital, but in that moment, where I felt like I truly could not do it, I thought of what it would be like to endure these contractions sitting in a car… that was out of the question!

It has been such an honor to be able to have this experience. I am humbled by birth.   11/25/07

12/30/07- I finally figured out how to have comments on pages, so please comment below.  Previously submitted comments on my birth story can be read here.

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42 comments to Jen’s VBAC

  • thank you for dropping my blog, Footprints and thanks for sharing your story. My OB has been supportive over my VBAC plan which is great.i will know in maybe a few days or a couple more weeks if i can do it. i am currently at 3cm, lost all of my plug with tons of contractions but still pregnant, its just weird but not so funny anymore..lol

  • Grace

    Thank you for reassuring me about going through with an HBAC for my next baby. I’m hoping to get pregnant again soon. I was having second thoughts – mostly to do with getting my mother and husband to get on board with it. Going through all the details of your story and how it might have been different at a hospital reminds me of why I’m seeking a homebirth for the next one.

  • Bonnie Hansen

    I love your birth story! Your journey from previous c-section to HBAC mirrors my own. I did tons of research like you and eventually felt it would be safer for me to birth at home than it would to birth in the hospital. My hbac was wonderful and my midwife was incredibly knowledgeable and experienced. If I had gone to the hospital, I’m convinced I would have ended up with an unnecessary c-section.

    Thank you for taking the time to post your observations, research, and great story. It is sorely needed in our society.

  • Brooke

    Thank you for posting this! I’m currently about 12 weeks pregnant and will probably be switching to a midwife very soon. I’m still in the gathering information stage about having a vbac in the hospital or in a birthing center. Right now I’m leaning towards the birthing center because I just don’t think I will get a vbac in a hospital with all the interventions that are “policy”. (IV, epidural placed – even if not turned on, continuous internal fetal monitoring…) Even though my OB and a specialist I had to meet with both declared me an excellent candidate for a vbac – I’ve had 3 previous vaginal births.

    Right now I just need to convince my husband to get on board. He’s very hesitant because with our insurance if I deliver in a hospital with a network provider, it’s free. But if I do the birthing center thing, it will be about $1500. Any ideas on how to convince him??? :)

  • tya

    VEry beautiful description of your birth experience. You were courageous and determined and I applaud that. Your story was also very encouraging. I hope to be as courageous as you as I am 36 weeks and already 3 cm dilated. Thank you for your wonderful citations as well that lent credibility to your tale. God bless you and your family.

  • Laurie

    Thanks for your story. I am 27 weeks and just recently learned I can hbac w/a midwife. That’s my plan. My husband is not on board but I agree with several of your points and feel that the best shot I have for a vbac is at home. Plus I want a birthing tub. I know the water will be a welcome relief at points during labor. I am inspired and I too want to help advocate women regaing power over their births. I know how different I feel now that I’ve been given choices again. Thank you and Congratulations!

  • Zorylaine

    Hy I am so happy for you! This is beautiful. I am planning to have my baby home but haven’t told much because I have had 3 c-sections already which everyone in my family has panic about. I will do the bathtub just to see if is best and if i see something going wrong I will go to the hospital which is two blocks away from my home. Do you think is okay what I am doing after having multple c-sections?

  • Jennifer

    Zorylaine, I wish I had some wise words for you, but I honestly haven’t done much research on VBAMC. Fortunately, I know of an excellent website to refer you to that is full of research and analysis:
    I wish you the best of luck with your decision.

  • Jen! I finally got a chance to visit your site and read your inspiring story. My brother and I were both born at home and I’ve always admired my mom for doing this. I’ve also thought if she could do it, why couldn’t I? Your story has me thinking about homebirth vbac now and I will definately be revisiting your site to re-read various parts so I fully understand everything. I am amazed at your courage and can’t wait to find out more about this possibility. Hugs back to you…Gina Malone (extraordinary ordinariness)

  • Jennifer

    Gina, I got goosebumps reading your comment. The internet is such an amazing thing! I wonder frequently how people ever made decisions or researched before the internet! It’s so incredible the power of our stories and experiences and how, through the internet, we are able to share with people we would have never otherwise met. I’m glad you stopped by and I look forward to following your pregnancy through your blog! :) Big hugs, Jen

  • Jennifer

    It’s so funny… sometimes I read my birth story and remember stuff. L did check my dilation shortly after she arrived because I was pushing and she wanted to ensure that I was 10cm and I was. So, I did have one vaginal exam!

  • Ramona

    Thank you for sharing your story! I’m a midwife and birth stories have been an important part of my (ongoing) education. Not to mention I’m just a birth junkie too!
    It’s great that you are also a birth activist at least informally. I also took your advice and joined ICAN.

  • Claire Groom

    Wow. Thank you so much for letting us all read this beautiful, empowering birth story! J feel so happy to know that people are having vbac at home! Yay! I tried to have my son at home this last October but ended up having to go to the hospital and have a cesaerean after 24 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing. I felt so defeated! The doctor who did my surgery said that no one would let me do a vbac because ( surprise, surprise ) My hips and pelvis were too small! Here in Az. its illegal to have a vbac at home with a midwife but My husband and I are planning on moving soon to California where I just found out today vbac at home is legal!For a while ther I was sad and afraid that I might not get to experience a normal, home birth. I feel reborn! Hopefully someday it will be every woman’s right,everywhere to chose where and how she wants to have her baby! Thank goodness for birth junkies like you!

  • Thanks for leaving a comment of encouragement on my blog. I am so excited about my upcoming VBAC though I will be doing it at a hospital with a midwife and not at home. I am also using hypnobabies. I do not have the visualize your birth CD. Is it good?

  • Katie

    Thanks for your story! I am so excited to be trying a HBA2C in October. I have been doing my countless research as well and have found so many inspiring stories along the way. Thank you for sharing, it really encourages those of us out there looking for the same experience!

    Katie, Best of luck to you and please keep me posted on your birth! Happy pushing! Best, Jen

  • Amy

    Congratulations! Your son is so gorgeous and chubby! This is a great birth story. I am a doula in Denver and wish that all my clients have such a satisfying birth experience. The differences you point out between hospital and home, OB and midwife are striking. I experienced that myself with my two babes (2.5 years and 4 months). My first was born in a hospital which was a sort of sterile, boring, cold environment. My second was born at Mountain Midwifery Birth Center in Englewood, CO (www.mountainmidwifery.com) and we had a great water birth experience. We chose to go there because the midwives are fantastic (Tracy Ryan was the only CNM to attend births at home before starting the center) and it’s covered by our insurance. Only thing is, I sure don’t like contractions (surges) in the car!!! Next one will definitely be at home. Hopefully I can find a midwife who will do it for trade since $2-3,000 is a lot for our budget and we have a HMO :( I’ll just treat birth like a buffet and sample a little bit of everything! ;) All the best to your family! – Amy

  • Susie Demke

    Thank you. This was very informative and incredibly insightful. I am planning my own h-bac and find myself having second and third thoughts about it- Am I being selfish and irresponsible?, ect. I appreciate being told I am not. I know that I’m not, but those are hard thoughts to banish when you’ve been trained for years to view birth from one narrow perspective. I need to stay focused and informed because that gives me more confidence and power. I’m quickly learning to shut out all the hype but it’s hard because all the birth info we see on t.v. and read about is fear based made for dramatics and good viewing. Such a shame.
    This is all very encouraging. Thank you.

  • Jen

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing your empowering experience!! I have been torn since I had a cs with my 1st- I have always dreamed of the birth the “could have been.” I agonize over the decision to go for VBAC next time and never dreamed of “daring” for a HBAC. My issue is that I am a maternity nurse- I have seen what can go well and what can go wrong (and am painfully haunted by what could’ve been prevented with less intervention and more patience…) I fear that I would be severly judged, criticized and even ostracized professionally if I ever whispered a thought about HBAC (our facility only tentatively allows “trial of labor” for VBAC.)
    After reading this, I am renewed with hope and enthusiasm about the choices I have. I’m sure I will be back to re-read this for encouragement along my journey through all of the naysayers!!

  • Wow, great story! Thanks for sharing this! I had a great HBAC experience in August and love hearing of the experiences of others!

  • My midwife told me when I took my son in for a newborn checkup that due to my emergency cesarean I wasn’t legally allowed to have an HBAC in the state of Arizona. Does anyone know anything about this? Even if I found someone to do it under the radar, it makes me sad that I wouldn’t be able to work with her again.

  • Jackie

    I stumbled on your page when searching online about VBAC’s. I have unfortunately just had my second c-section. I love my new baby (born 7th Jan 09) with all my heart of course, but so wish his birth could have been different. My first section was due to failure to progress after my waters broke and there was meconium in them. I didn’t make it past 4cm in 23 hours of labour. I put this down to the fact that I hate hospitals and I tense up the minute I am in one.

    I wanted a VBAC with my second however I was talked in to a c-section after I got to 42 weeks without going into labour and had high blood pressure and protein in my urine.

    I am definitely going to look into the option of a home birth VBAC for my next baby, not sure how successful I will be finding a midwife to support me here in the UK but will do everything I can to avoid another section!

    Many thanks for sharing your wonderful inspirational story with us.

  • Angela

    Congratulations on your wonderful brith!!!!!
    I really appreciate this site and its boldness for spreading truth.
    I have had 6 unnecessary c-sections. They have all been low-transverse and healed well. My first was due to malposition which could have easily been changed if I would have been “allowed” to move. I was dilated and effaced completely with no induction. My 2nd c-section was due to the nurse “accidently” rupturing my membranes when I was only dilated to 7 and the baby not coming right away. How stupid of me to allow them to cut me again and not just wait. I had this baby over four years before my first. There was no reason at all to operate. My doctor was distressed!
    My 3rd c-section was about 2 years later and was elective due to scare tactics. During this c-section the doctor actually said something like, “You have had TWO c-sections??? Your uterus looks soooooo good!!” I was thinking…Please sew me up then and let me do this naturally! :( With my fourth pregnancy I was much more educated in the field of child birth and VBAC and was completely prepared to have this baby naturally. Everything went great until I went to the hospital. I was treated like a criminal preparing to commit murder. I dilated to 10 on my own, but was still harassed and harassed until finally forced to have a c-section. During this operation my fascia was not put back together and I had a bulge the sixe of a small water balloon below my navel. I still suffer from this operation that was performed over 8 years ago. My 5th c-section was performed after finding a doctor who I felt supported me. I dilated again to 10. The baby was even descending into the birth canal. I had a nurse that was extremely nervous and told me I was taking too great of a risk. She frightened the dr and he demanded that I have another c-section. During this c-section the doctor nicked the main artery that connects my left fallopian tube to my uterus. I almost died from blood loss in this operation. I needed at least 2 or more transfusions and I had to spend the entire night in the ICU without my baby boy. It was horrible!!! That was considered the “safe” option….a c-section! My 6th c-section was in April 07. It was planned and I had a wonderful birthing experience. The doctor treated me human and cared very much for me. He told me that my uterus looked great and I was ready for baby #7. He knew we wanted a big family. That was in Germany.
    So, here I am now…I am in TN. I am almost 30 weeks pregnant and still have not even seen a OBGYN. This is the first time I feel very frightened about the medical system. I have been in contact with a Dr. via phone and email. She is a Dr/Midwife and we are seriously considering a Home birth. This is where I am now thanks to the abuse I have received in the hospitals. I am a woman wanting to have a baby. I want to be treated like a human not like an atomic bomb waiting to go off. I have read and read and read both sides…I know the risks. I am concerned about the safe delivery of my baby. But I have been frightened away from medical staff…There is so much more to my story. But, it would be too long to write here. I have been abused emotionally and physically. I feel I have been violated and have lost my body to a system…an evil system that believes that having a baby is a medical condition. Having a baby is not a medical condition. It is a normal, natural, God-given process that man has perverted and taken control over. Allow woman to just have their baby in a peaceful and safe environment. Leave us alone! If there is an emergency, we are thankful to have the medical staff…but until then, please let us be and let us give birth! The doctor does not need an enema every time he has to use the rest room and women do not need any interventions or inductions to have their babies!!!!!
    Sincerely, A woman who just wants to give birth not have an operation,
    PS. A decision made out of fear is no decision at all!!!!!

    • Angela I feel for you I really do, I had only one baby but was abused too, from the start they did to me all the things I said no to and I eneded up with a c-section because of what they did to me, totally unnecessary I hate them and will only ever go to hospital if I’m really in serious danger, next baby will be Hbac, I trust my body and I need to do this for my son and for me, to have a revenge in some ways as well, to feel that rush of hormones that make you fall in love with your baby that I never had even if I do love my little boy but I’m sure it’s different, the first few days I often wondered if I did him, if he was mine and my body feels as if I never gave birth, I had PTSD, luckyly no depression, but it’s hard too, rage, crying for hate towards them, nightly flashbacks of the nightmare I lived, lots and lots of rage, I can’t let go, I don’t know how to. Maybe it will go away with my blood when I’ll deliver for real next time.I hope, all the best and may number 7 be the luckiest of all!

  • susan

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am planning a Hypnobabies HBAC for this pregnancy (guess date in March!), so hearing your story is wonderful! Thank you!

  • Christine

    I am so thankful to have come across this website. Thank you for all of the time you have taken to share your story and the truths about vbacks. I am 26 weeks pregnant with my third child. My first was a wonderful delivery in a hospital with a great midwife. The experience was very similar to your home birth even though it was in a hospital. They let me do whatever I felt was right for me. I could not have had a better experience. My second was breech and after various attempts to help him turn we ended up with a c-section. What a difference. The doctors and staff were wonderful but the process was truly terrible. It has been just over 14 months and I still feel I am recovering both emotionally and physically. Some friends who have had a c-section have thought that I must have had a worse recover then they did but I think in truth it was not worse, I just have my first vaginal delivery to compare it to and there is really no comparison. I will admit I have been scared of the thought of a vbac but I am petrified of another c-section. My hospital does not support vbacs so we can not have the wonderful people we have had these past times. Your information has helped me to see how much of my fear has been from scare tactics used. I am now in a place where both my husband and I are ready to do a hbac but our family is very upset by this decision. Any advice on how to deal with this?

    • Jen Kamel


      Unsupportive friends and family can really make what should be a happy time in your life very difficult.

      Some women lie, but there is an absolute break in trust that can result and you have to decide if you are willing to risk your relationship. Some women just constantly change the subject, or request that their family simply respect the decision they made and agree to disagree. Maybe your family would be willing to read blogs like this one or others? Some women also just decrease communication with unsupportive people during their pregnancy and seek out the company of fellow women and families who have had a VBAC and/or a homebirth.

      I don’t think there is a perfect answer, but I hope you are able to enjoy your pregnancy.

      I’m so sorry you are going through this. It certainly makes this period of your life way more stressful.



  • Amanda

    Thank-you, so much for posting your story. I had my third child by c-section 4 months ago and she like your first was a footling breech. I have felt such grief over the fact the safest optition for her was a c-section. I blame my sedentary lifestyle and would never have sat around so much if I had an inkling it could cause her to be the most rare breech position.

  • Oh, I just loved reading this. I believe my HBAC will be everything my hospital birth was not; peaceful, joyful, empowering, healing. You know my hospital VBAC story, and the miserable fight I had to endure to birth my baby vaginally, and I simply could never put myself in that situation again. Homebirth all the way, baby!

  • [...] Baby “M” – Jennifer’s son was 9 lbs., 10 oz. – a home birth after cesarean (HBAC) [...]

  • Anna

    I just wanted to tell you what an inspiration you are for me! I’m not pregnant yet, but will start trying to conceive my second child next month. I am praying for a VBAC and even quite possibly an HBAC! You give me hope!

  • Kiva

    Your story is invaluable. I am 32weeks and am about to meet with a midwife for the 1st time tomorrow. I have had doubts about an HBAC but the more I research, the more convinced I become that its truly the best option for me (my Ob said “stop the crazy talk” when I mentioned it to him so I will face him once more to close the issue and get my records). My previous experience and feelings are so similar to yours. My sister who was objectively supporting me (but not truly, because of the commonly percieved risks)started doing some searching and found your story and emailed it to me, it has changed her attitude towards my plan and hence has proven to be truly inspiring. Thank you for such a detailed account.

  • Steph

    I appreciate your website and especially your HBAC birth story. I got a lot of strength and encouragement from here during my recent pregnancy. Thank you so much for sharing! 5 weeks ago I fearlessly gave birth at home to a 9 1/2 pounds boy in the wee hours of the morning with just my husband and midwife present. There is no comparing my HBAC birth with the c-section I had for my first son. Homebirth was the right choice for my baby and me.

  • Sarah

    I really appreciated reading your story because the info about the partial placentia seperation was included, it is obvious that you had a very competent and prepared midwife. I am also an orange county mom contemplating a HBAC for my second child. I am having trouble locating a CNM who does VBAC, I have called the BCM group and they do not. Would you be able to tell me the name/ contact info for the midwife that you used? A CNM is important to me, as opposed to a LM.

    • Jen Kamel

      Hi Sarah!

      My midwife was a certified professional midwife (CPM.) CPMs are not nurses, but can, in the state of California as licensed midwives, legally carry drugs such as Pitocin and Methergine.

      If you are still interested in her name, comment again and I’ll email it to you.



  • Meredith

    Thank you so much for posting your story. I am currently pregnant with baby #3 and am strongly considering a HBAC (my first 2 were c-sections) and you put into words exactly how I feel, and how I felt after both my surgeries. I can’t wait to show this to my husband who is not quite on board with the idea of having a baby at home!!

  • Chantelle

    Thank you for your wonderful and experienced story! you are an insporation to me, and makes me feel even more sure I know I can have a VBAC! Unfortunetaly I cannot have a home birth, as I have pre eclampsia and gestational diabetes, but i am fighting with m OB right now for a VBAC. I was not properly cared for during the prenatal portion ( up to 32 weeks). WhereI live, u stay with your family doctor uintil 34-36 weeks. My son was born naturaly and I was induced with him. Fortunetaly I was successful and held him 26.5hrs after labour started.
    With my duaghter I was never once measured or weihgted or had blood work. I was miss treated which caused my daughter to come early by 5 weeks. she was a bog baby because I didn tknow I had gestational with her. She was also feet first so I was flown 8 hrs away to go have a section in another city without my son. Worst experence ever. She had a couple of tears coming out and they would not let me see her til 12 hrs later, after I got out of bed they still refused. needless to say, i had the worst experencie ever and I do not want another surgery. My son is almost 4 yrs old and my daughter is almost 2 1/2 yrs old and I am due in5 weeks with baby #3.
    Again got better care, but not proper care and foundout too late about gestatonal (insulin dependent now) and my baby is really big. I am 35 weeks and my baby weighs in at 3.8kg (8lbs 3 1/2oz). and my doctor says he will not deliver naturally after 4kg (9lbs) baby. My son was born at 37 weeks at 7lbs 4 oz and my daughter was born at 35 weeks 8lbs 4oz. He says to tuet him and he will take care of me, but what I dont understand is how doctors automatically say us women cant do something. I know I can deliver and he is not listening.
    I have done my research about VBACs and also about big babies being born with or without VBAC. The success rate is high. I just dont know how to prove it to my doctor I can do it.
    But again thank you for your story it has inspired me to make him hear what I want and make him understand it. And for me to feel strong again!
    Thank you

  • Vicky

    Thankyou for sharing what a home birth was like. I wanted one, but there is none available in my area. So I settled for a ‘birthing unit’ – kind alike a private apartment but with the extra medical stuff just in case. Alas, it had been closed down because it cost to much to run.

    So I had a hospital birth. And hated how powerless and at their mercy I felt the whole way through. I felt as if I was merely a ‘vessel’ for the precious thing inside me, and ny thoughts and feelings, opinions and questions were irrelevant to the process of making sure that the precious thing was extracted for me in the most efficient (from their point of view) way possible.

    We have not been blessed with another child, so that is my only experience of birth. And I cry when I think about it, even now, 7 years later – I feel denied something magical, something special, something *deeply* spiritual, something that my son and I would always share together. I feel I missed out on the essential transition, the ‘rite of passage’ into motherhood. I can never know what effect it had on my son.

    Thankyou for sharing your story. Thankyou for fighting for home births (whether after or before Ceasers). Because what I wanted was – and had every right to – was the unique and profound experience that is birthing, and what I got was a medical procedure.

  • Aloha, I am a doula and was researching information to answer questions from my certification exam. I came across your site while doing so, and I could not stop reading your story even though it did not answer any of my questions:)- it is SO BEAUTIFUL… It was so informative, yet very sweet, gentle and so peaceful:), and I felt there was no judgement, just a very wise, at peace energy being shared. (if that makes ANY sense at all). I just wanted to thank you for sharing so much even though you mentioned in the beginning that it’s unlike you- I agree women need to hear more stories like yours and be inspired by our natural abilities. I just love love love your energy and thank you for sharing this. When I hear empowering birth stories I envision myself experiencing the labor of my first child (I’m not even pregnant yet!) I just can’t help but feel that birth energy because I’ve witnessed it and know its greatness… and I so look forward to getting to feel what women like yourself and all those who have come before us have:) And, that’s a real thing- that birth energy/power. Because, when I attend hospital births, I close up, and I do NOT look forward to giving birth- it actually makes me not want to give birth ever! So, I thank you (AGAIN!):) hehe… and believe that I will pass this on to all my birth friends and curious friends not in the ‘natural birthing world’:) aloha nui loa and god bless!!!

  • “I feel like me.” love that. Happy Birthday to your boy.

  • Stacy

    This was heartwarming to read. I’m in NJ and HBA2C is “touchy” to find someone to attend for me. I’m due in January. Luckily through perserverence I’ve found two options to allow me to birth out of the hospital. Not sure which I will go with just yet but I think it’s good for people to know that what you want can be in your grasp if you fight for it.

    Best to you and yours.

  • Sarah


    Thanks for writing out your whole HBAC story. I attempted a home birth with my daughter last May. After over 24 hours of labor, and the top of my daughter’s head visible to everyone looking down there, my midwife called it and I had to transfer to the hospital because I just could not push her out and my contractions were slowing down. Had pitocin induction at the hospital, and ended up with a c/s. The un-homebirth-friendly OB who operated would not tell us what the problem was, so it is just speculated that her cord was too short or her arm was wrapped around her head. I have felt like such a failure since her birth, and, if I’m being honest with myself, am pretty terrified at the thought of getting pregnant again in case something similar happens. I would ideally love to HBAC, so your story helped me feel a little bit more calm.


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