|Lora Denton Photography|
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For those of you who followed along with this pregnancy, you know that I hoped and prayed for a VBAC. I was pretty late to the game, making the decision to try for one at the very end once my OB/GYN suggested it. Up until then, the plan was to schedule a c-section. When I realized that I might actually get my VBAC, I refused to dwell too long on the topic. I kept saying I’d play by the rules and not get hung up in the details. I’d receive an epidural, I’d lie in bed for extended monitoring, I’d do whatever they needed me to during labor to keep things safe and on track. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to wind up with the birth that I did. It was so fulfilling, so redemptive, so… the Lord. I know these experiences are sacred and emotional and oftentimes private, but I’ve been asked and I want to encourage. Jesus gave me a powerfully redemptive story in Hadassah’s birth. So let’s get started.
My contractions picked up around four o’clock on Sunday morning, July 14. I could tell things were different from the last several weeks, but I stayed quiet. Chris needed a bit more rest before his alarm clock went off, and I wasn’t about to ask him to stay home from church just to watch me be uncomfortable. Ames’ birth was a bit of a marathon, and I was prepared for a long haul with this one, too. And if a c-section was in my future, there would be time to get my husband to the hospital beforehand. Just before he left, Chris kissed my head and offered to stay. I declined and told him to have a great morning. The second the door closed, though, I began to feel a bit panicky. I was feeling nauseous like I did with Ames’ birth, and I didn’t want to be alone. I got in touch with both my mom and my mother-in-law, and they headed over. Then I called Chris and asked him to come up with a back-up plan, just in case.
Just after seven o’clock that morning, I checked in with the on-call service and discovered that one of my favorite midwives, Tina, was at the hospital for the day. Funny, she’s my favorite from other people’s stories, but I’ve never actually worked with her. I’d only seen the same OB/GYN this pregnancy, anticipating the c-section. Tina called me back and asked me to share a bit of my story. She gave me the go-ahead to wait as long as I wanted before coming in, encouraging me with the same opinion as my doctor – that I was an excellent candidate for a VBAC and that she looked forward to seeing me soon. When she learned of my previous home birth, I heard the smile in her voice. She cautioned me not to wait too long, and I promised to behave. I hung up with her and texted my friend, Elizabeth, an L&D nurse at the hospital. Turns out, she had picked up a day shift and was on until seven that night. She’d be able to help take care of me! I finished up with her after a few minutes, once again promising not to wait too long while simultaneously refusing to come in until my husband was finished at church. Next, I got in touch with my home birth midwife, Damaris. She’d agreed to be present if she didn’t have any moms in labor. Hers was the first face I saw after my c-section with the twins, and I remember an overwhelming sense of peace. There’s just something so steadfast and reassuring about that woman. I really wanted her there for this birth. Lo and behold, she was finishing up with a birth nearby and was free for the rest of the day! My last text was to my photographer, Lora, who was also available and excited to do the whole birth. The Lord was just lining things up left and right. My heart was soaring.
My parents and mother-in-law came over just as the kids woke up. The big boys had spent the night at their mom’s and were already at church. Chris said they kept asking him why he was still there once they learned I was in labor. Back at the house, the three little pigs couldn’t figure out why they didn’t get to go. Ames kept asking to use his new booster seat, and we kept trying to explain that the baby was coming. It was such a sweet morning. My contractions picked up in intensity, but they stayed five minutes apart the entire time I waited for Chris. I labored all over the house, and it felt manageable. I spent some time in the bath, some time lying on the bed, some time eating a bagel (my dad always brings the bagels), and some time visiting with family in the den while the pigs entertained everyone with their antics. My photographer, Lora, came over to keep me company and fend off the anxious folks who thought I needed to call Chris home and head to the hospital. I swore up and down it’d be the next morning before we met this baby, and I was in no mood to discuss the hospital yet. I wasn’t about to bring my husband home from his job just to have him sit and stare at me and rub the same spot on my back repeatedly.
Once things got a little more uncomfortable, Lora sat quietly in my bedroom with me while the kids filtered in and out under the grandparents’ supervision. She read me funny things on Facebook and helped the kids play dress-up in my high heels. She let me know when my faces and noises seemed too “pinchy.” She had me crawl the stairs a few times during contractions, keeping track of my timing and laughing when I cursed at her under my breath. She took beautiful photos of the little pigs snuggling my belly. I still can’t get over how amazing the little ones were that morning. During contractions, the twins whispered, “Aww… baby hurt Momma’s tummy” while Ames made inappropriate statements like, “We need that baby to come out of Momma’s bottom and not her belly.” They kept me smiling and distracted, and I’m grateful that I got to spend that time with them.
Something changed the moment Chris walked in the door, shortly after noon. He leaned over me and kissed my head, cracking jokes and putting everyone at ease. I know our mothers were all too happy to see his face, and I was too. Once I learned that the big boys were taken care of (playing golf with Chris’ dad) for the afternoon, I stood up and announced that it was time to go to the hospital. I was no longer able to talk through my contractions and I needed some new scenery. I was getting louder and I knew what was coming. My goal was to get to the hospital before I transitioned, and I hoped to at least be halfway dilated upon arrival. I had declined cervical checks at the last few visits, so I had no idea what was going on down South. I tried checking myself just before Chris got home, but I didn’t want to give my cervix more credit than I should. That was okay; I didn’t really want to know. I didn’t want the numbers to mess with my head and discourage me.
My hospital bag was already packed and by the door. I kissed everyone goodbye with a much different attitude than I’d had all morning. I felt things picking up and I needed to get away from my kids and my family. I beat Chris to the car and contracted a few times standing up while he loaded up the van. I shot text messages to all of the concerned parties, and I called the charge nurse at the maternity center to let her know I was en route. I remember saying something like, “This is the only number I have memorized, from work, but I don’t think I’m supposed to call you. I’m supposed to call the answering service, right? I’m sorry!” She laughed and said it was fine, that they’d been expecting to hear from me and they’d see me soon. The car ride was only fifteen minutes or so, but it was intense! I’ve never labored in a car before. It ain’t no joke. I spent most of the ride on my knees, facing the back, draped over the seat. At one stoplight, Chris rolled down his window and shouted, “Hey look! My wife is in labor!” I looked over to see a police officer smiling at me in the car next to us, saying something like, “It’ll all be over soon! Good luck!”
We pulled into the maternity center around one o’clock. Chris stopped at the front door just as my home birth midwife, Damaris, walked up. I took a few contractions against the brick wall by the entrance, trying to clear my head and get some control walking in. Damaris parked the van for us so Chris could check in with me. The lady at the desk asked me how I was feeling and I said I was fine. She laughed and asked, “Are you sure? We can see you through that glass and it didn’t look like you were feeling fine against that brick wall!” I looked and realized the entire waiting room had gotten an excellent view of my contractions outside. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Someone came and walked me to my room. There was no triage or formal registration process, which I remember appreciating and questioning at the same time. The nurse-midwife, Tina, was in my room seconds after I walked in. She was accompanied by my assigned nurse, Sara, and my nurse friend, Elizabeth, who’d managed to slip away from her responsibilities for a few hours to support me. Tina asked for permission to check me and chat about our plan, both of which I happily obliged. I asked her not to tell me the results once she’d checked things out, and the entire room groaned and smiled. They could all tell I was doing much better than I thought I was, and they wanted me to be encouraged. Tina showed the nurses behind my back with her fingers, and then she watched me for a few contractions.
That was when she told me that once the baby & I passed the twenty-minute-heart-rate-strip-on-the-big-daddy-monitor-while-contracting-in-the-uncomfortable-bed test, she was going to cut me loose. She’d have the nurses “go old-school” and monitor me using only a hand-held device every few minutes. Basically, I could do what felt right, and the team would work around me. She also threw out some ideas like letting the baby be born in its water sac if it came to that, and delaying the cord-cutting as long as it was still pulsing. Like a home birth. In a hospital. You could hear the excitement in the room when she asked me if that sounded like a good plan. I nodded yes and smiled my thanks, and Tina slipped quietly out the door to let me settle in with my crew.
Elizabeth started my IV and I labored for awhile standing up, leaning against the bed, while the antibiotics went in. I’d learned just moments prior that I was GBS positive and needed two doses of antibiotics during labor. The penicillin burned, but I wanted it over with as fast as possible. We ran it fast while Damaris held my hand and I rocked back and forth. Once it was done, it was suggested I try the tub. I remember looking at them like they were crazy. And why was Damaris nodding? How on earth was she on board with this? Didn’t she remember my labor with Ames? I tried to refuse, spouting some garbage about how the tub was going to slow things down. Damaris just smiled and said that there was no slowing this down. She did suggest that I take a few contractions on the toilet, which I did. And hated.
The jacuzzi tub was delicious, while it lasted. I probably stayed in there for the greater part of an hour. I slurped down an orange popsicle and chatted between contractions. My nurse, Sara, became rather adept at reading my face, snatching my popsicle just in time and positioning the Doppler monitor into a good spot to hear the baby during contractions. After awhile, though, the tub wasn’t so delicious anymore. I told everyone I needed to go to the bathroom. They offered to help me back to bed and used phrases like if you’re feeling pushy. I became a bit belligerent at that point. I’m a nurse, and I’m birth-savvy. I’m well aware that the pushing phase often starts with those I’ve-gotta-go sensations down there. That’s not what this was! I knew what pushy felt like and we were hours, days away from that! I honestly just thought I had to go to the bathroom and I wanted to be alone for a minute. It was hot and crowded in that bathroom.
They left me in the bathroom with Damaris but they kept the door open. Elizabeth was super soft and sweet when she said something about how supportive she wanted to be, but that she couldn’t let me have my baby on the toilet or without Tina present. She also made a joke about Damaris’ and my track record together. I remember trying to laugh but it hurt too much. Instead, I fired something back about not being anywhere close to needing to push or to see Tina. I didn’t want them getting my hopes up. At that moment, I had a particularly rough contraction sitting on the toilet and felt myself groan a bit. And it felt a little pushy. No freakin’ way.
I hung my head and said, “Alright, which one of y’all heard that groan there at the end?” Tina said she did. Tina, the midwife? What? Why was she back? I mean, I liked her and all but, I didn’t want to waste her time. Who had called her in? I said something about it being too soon to push and everyone just smiled and shook their heads at me. It wasn’t too soon to push. It was okay to push. I finally asked Tina how many centimeters I’d been when I came in. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to know, and then she said it. Seven. I had walked into the hospital at seven centimeters dilated.
I lost it, right there on the toilet. I burst into tears. I just let it all out. All of that fear, the anxiety, the worry that this labor might take too long, or that it might not work after all… it all just washed away. We were in the home stretch, and I’d only been at the hospital for two hours. It was three o’clock in the afternoon now, and they helped me to the bed so Tina could check me again. I was terrified I’d have that dreaded lip of cervix that I had with Ames. She smiled again. Nine centimeters. No lip. Praise Jesus. She did cause a contraction, though, and I found myself in a particularly painful position. I had to get out of that bed. Chris tried to help me sit up and I slapped his hand away. I immediately looked up and said, “I wasn’t hitting you! I was just giving you a high five!” I kept apologizing for everything. For crying. For getting loud during contractions. For making Sara, my nurse, work too hard to find the baby’s heartbeat with all of my moving. For doubting my own body’s progress. I’m pretty notorious for being overly apologetic, though, so they paid me no mind. Everyone just kept smiling and cheering me on.
I spent the next few contractions at the sink, splashing water on my face and squatting and banging on cabinets and being really loud and…birth-y. Y’all, it was that dark moment before the dawn. That moment where you know what’s coming but you know what you must do first, and nobody else can do it for you. Someone offered me the yoga ball, and I sat on it for a split second until the memories from Ames’ birth came flooding back. I’d spent hours on that thing, some of them asleep, and I couldn’t handle the thought of another long stretch like that. I ended up tossing it aside in favor of the floor, twisting into some odd position that we all spent some time imitating and laughing about afterward (also something I did during Ames’ labor). I remember looking up at the clock and asking Tina when I’d need another dose of antibiotic. She said it didn’t matter, that she thought I’d have my baby by four o’clock.
I looked around the room and took it all in for a second. At this point, I was literally on my knees, hanging from the bathroom counter. I counted the heads and the credentials and I was overcome by all the smart, powerful people that had teamed up in my corner. There was the certified nurse-midwife, who ultimately called the shots but had allowed me to come onto her turf and let my baby call them instead. There were two nurses, used to seeing straight-forward medicated births, and yet totally comfortable chasing me around the room as I labored. There was the certified professional midwife, specializing in out-of-hospital birth, willing to see this thing to the end in the role of labor support. There was the photographer, who also happens to function as a doula and is apprenticing to become a midwife herself. And lastly, there was my husband, who has helped my babies enter the world in bedrooms and on operating tables. It was all just too perfect. I was so grateful.
I headed back to the dreaded toilet to take a few more contractions. The goal was to stay there as long as I could take it, and it was intense. Tina talked me very quietly through a few contractions, encouraging me to put my hand down there and tell her what I was feeling. I could feel the bag of water, and I wanted more than anything for it to break. There was so much pressure, sitting there like that on the toilet, and I couldn’t get away from it. Tina had my nurse lay a towel over my lap while she talked me back from the ledge, encouraging me to take control and breathe everything down. I remember asking her to repeat herself over and over, and she obliged. She sat on a trash can in that tiny bathroom with me, encouraging me through each second of those hard contractions. Suddenly, POP. The water broke and there was instant relief. For a second. Then the urge to push came hard and fast again, and we moved to the bed.
I ended up pushing somewhat on my back, but also on my left side. I’m not sure how we settled on that position, but everyone seemed okay with it. Tina didn’t have the nurses break down the bed or pull out the stirrups. Nobody held my legs back and counted for me. The scene just felt so quickly thrown-together, so relaxed. Well, I was certainly not relaxed. Tina could tell how hard I wanted to push, and she reminded me to go slow and easy. I yelled a few times for her to pull her hand away, because I just knew she was down there with mineral oil stretching things out, but no. It was all the baby’s head, and everyone told me so over and over. Tina continued to encourage me to take it easy, but I felt myself losing control again because I just wanted it over with. It was then that Damaris got in my face and reminded me of the last time. Things happened a bit too fast and hard with Ames, and my girl parts paid dearly. She was down there with Tina now, and it wasn’t hard to see my old tears and scars stretching. They wanted to protect that, hence the coaching. When it finally clicked in my brain, I was able to slow things down. In fact, at the very end, I pushed between contractions, in order to use less force. Thanks to God and those ladies, I sustained minimal injury, once it was all said and done!
The entire pushing process took less than fifteen minutes, which blew my mind. Lora and Elizabeth and my husband all had to confirm it with me before I’d write it in this story. I just couldn’t make myself believe that it was that fast and efficient, but it was. One minute, my leg was in Tina’s lap as she sat on the corner of the bed and murmured, “Easy easy easy.” The next minute, she asked me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. And then she asked me to take my baby. The head was out and my hands were around the neck. Then they were around the chest, under the arms. I was delivering my own child.
I pulled that sweet little thing onto my stomach eleven minutes before four o’clock in the afternoon, just like Tina had predicted. It was all over and yet just beginning, at the same time. They wrapped us both up in warm blankets, and a full minute passed before someone suggested I take a look to see what gender we’d produced. I grabbed a hold of each ankle and spread the poor thing’s legs out like a chicken, nearly turning the baby upside-down. Chris & I had decided that I’d be the one to discover, and I did not want to mess this up. “It’s a girl!” I laughed and shouted.
I delivered the placenta a few minutes after the cord stopped pulsing, and they gave it to me to have it encapsulated – no questions asked! I could hear someone giving Sara a little education on it, and she was really into the idea. I couldn’t help but smile. My uterus took awhile to contract down, so there was a lot of mashing – and weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Those afterbirth pains ain’t no joke. While we were focused on all of that, someone pointed out that this baby was doing the breast crawl. She was literally crawling up my belly to try to nurse. She ended up on my left shoulder and I had to bring her back down, where she proceeded to latch on right away and nurse for nearly an hour.
An hour or two later, we weighed and measured her – 6lbs12oz, 19in. The following day, we named her – Hadassah Lee Kincaid. She is our baby queen, the sixth and final arrow in our quiver. To answer all of the inquiring, well-meaning folks… we are done, although this empowering birth (along with the big boys’ opinion of her) has definitely tempted us to reconsider!
|Lora Denton Photography|