Still a beautiful birth: Part 1

April was Cesarean Awareness month and it got me thinking a lot in regards to how I talk about this subject. I read a blog post recently that talked about the beauty and strength of women who have given birth by cesarean. It made me stop to think that I never speak of it in this light. It always comes up in a negative way. Often rightfully so, as too many women are being convinced that they are in need of a cesarean when in fact they are not. I have always said that I am not anti-cesarean. I am anti-cesarean when it is unnecessary.  But this blog post made me stop and think, am I acting this way about all cesareans? Am I treating their births as sub-par? I was convicted. Maybe I had. All three of my cesareans were unnecessary, but I know many women who have had necessary cesareans. I am so thankful that we have this option as a life-saving procedure!

I teach my students in my birth classes all about how to avoid an unnecessary cesarean. I do this by teaching them the red flags to look out for and educate them about interventions that may be unnecessary. This is one of the biggest reasons I started teaching Birth Boot Camp classes. I think this program does an amazing job to prepare couples to make educated decisions once it comes time to give birth. I have peace of mind knowing that when I send my students on their way, they will only end up with a cesarean if it was truly needed. I wanted to share a series of three beautiful births that ended up in a cesarean. I hope you enjoy them!

This first of three stories comes from one of my earliest couples from my class. I loved getting to know them. Both chiropractors, both very committed to having a natural birth. Here is their story:

We made that

(Jessica and Hans Mohrbeck)

(Jessica) I got pregnant. I got very pregnant. I had visions of being pregnant once, it involved a small, basketball-sized tummy and skinny ankles. I don’t recall wearing my husband’s clothes in that vision, nor it necessitating a wheelbarrow, but there I was using a pack and play box as a makeshift walker rushing at a snail’s pace to reach the bathroom in time, cursing my pelvic instability the entire way!

Jessica

We were ready for this baby, took our Birth Bootcamp with Caryn, read all the books, did all the research. We had four more weeks to go but we were ready. Soon I made it across our tiny apartment living room and into the bathroom, relief set in and I wiped the sweat off my brow. Oh how I wished it were that beautiful pregnancy glow, but then my stomach turned and my dream of being the most beautiful pregnant woman was destroyed by the lurching noises coming from my being that would put a drunkard to shame. I’ll spare you the rest of the details but it must have been food poisoning, I was certain of that. The day turned into night and my already anxious husband, Hans, urged me to call Jenee, our midwife. It was nearly 11pm but I sent her a quick text telling her that I was having a bout of food poisoning and was finding it difficult to keep water down. I may have also noted the excruciating back pain causing me labored breathing. She called asking more details and then as matter of fact told us that I was in labor and that I should begin working with each contraction and get comfortable. She urged me to take a warm bath and then try to get some rest and to keep her updated if any changes were made. I thought this woman was a professional! If she had memorized our cliche birth plan she would know that it entailed music and candles and not labor 4 weeks early while making mammoth sounds while the contents emptied from my stomach. “I’m not ready!” I’m fairly certain I yelled at her. She very calmly, Jenee-style, told me it didn’t matter we may have a baby soon. “We’ll see about that”, I protested. If there is one thing people learn quickly about me its that I’m very decided, my husband calls it stubbornness but I’m sure he’s wrong. Giving up on trying to squeeze my whale of a body in a kiddy pool size tub I made my way to bed and managed to drift to sleep. The next morning I woke a bit sore from the violent heaves of my body, but otherwise I felt pretty good. No contractions, no baby, we were back on schedule. I had an appointment on Monday for a checkup with Jenee and I looked forward to proving her wrong. The rest of the weekend rolled by uneventful and I continued my nesting ritual of making my husband rearrange every room several times insisting I could still see dust on the baseboards. Monday arrived, I would be attending this midwife appointment alone for the first time. Hans had an exam and felt guilty for missing. I’m sure I graciously eased his guilt by pointing out that he was going to let his very pregnant wife drive to a town she had never been to and miss the sound of his precious baby boy’s heart. On my way the “contractions” began again. I don’t know what right a contraction had to be so strong in the back and certainly not while I was driving. I knew something was wrong, but I was obstinate and in denial. I would get there and rest and all this would go away. It didn’t, and very quickly Hans was on his way to take me to the hospital. I was to be assessed for pre-eclampsia though it was unnecessary. I knew I had it and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. No cute first baby outfit, no cute receiving blanket or baby booties or hat. I didn’t even have a tooth brush! This was most certainly not in our birth plan.I don’t remember much and probably for the better. I remember being told I would need an emergency cesarean and letting one mournful tear drop, oh how I wanted a natural birth. Ok, maybe it was more than one tear, maybe it was more like wailing banshee, I was never a pretty crier. I thought about holding back the emotions but then again, how could I? I was stripped of my obligation to bring this baby into the world naturally, healthily, beautifully. I had made it my mission in life to disprove people, doctors, and naysayers. I wouldn’t get married, I was told, who would want to marry someone with my conditions knowing I would be a burden the rest of their life? I wouldn’t accomplish a degree I was told, no one could accomplish a degree with the level of pain I suffered. And children? Forget them because even if I wanted them it would be impossible to conceive. But here I was, a Doctor of Chiropractic, a wife to an amazing man who knowingly took my hand and stood by me. A mother—the ultimate impossible. I remember a short argument with a disgruntled nurse, something about signing a waiver to remove my uterus. I hoped she knew I was just having a C-section and nothing more. I was concerned about leaving with all the parts I entered with.

(Hans) So there I was, waiting for my exam to begin, I had been studying at school all morning because I finally had some free time while Jess was at her midwife check-up. Twenty minutes before my exam my phone is ringing, it’s Jess, and all I could think was “doesn’t she know this test starts in a couple minutes?” I was wrong, it was Jenee, and after a greeting she dropped the bomb on me. “Jessica needs to get to a Hospital, ASAP” she said. “But I have an exam…” I mumbled, completely taken by surprise and as if the thought of the exam wasn’t terrifying enough. It was go time! My wife in her most demanding state of need, an experience that I swore to be present for and to assist her with. “Not anymore you don’t. You need to get here and get her to a Hospital. Something is wrong” Jenee demanded. “Ok, let me go talk to the professor and I’m on my way!” I exclaimed. Yep, this was happening. I can’t believe how worried I was about the test and how quickly it became the least of my concerns.  When I arrived Jessica was sitting inside and Jenee was greeting me. She had started our other car to get the A/C running, it had the carseat so it only made sense. “Jessica is having contractions. You need to get her to a hospital, she might have pre-eclampsia. The two docs we planned for in case this happened are on vacation. You have a couple options but if I were you, I’d take her to Cleburne” Jenee advised. Jenee squared us away with directions and off we went.  At the time I was terrified, Jess was having contractions in the passenger seat of one of the most rough riding vehicles we’ve ever been in, and she could have pre-eclampsia! Whatever the hell that is! I know they mentioned it at the classes but come on, that stuff doesn’t happen to us, certainly my life wouldn’t be affected by something so sinister and… what the hell is it? How could Jess have it?  “I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat” Jess whined. “So eat something, I grabbed some crap at the store” I said as I motioned to her side of the car where I had tossed a bag with some juice, Cheez-its, almonds and some other stuff in it. She managed to get down one Cheez-it before she declared she didn’t want to eat and now she felt ill. I offered that perhaps it was because she hasn’t eaten. When we arrived at the Hospital we didn’t know where to go. We knew Dr. The O.B.’s office was with Labor and Delivery so that’s where we went. Jenee had already called over to a resident midwife on staff who was awaiting our arrival. She didn’t waste any time and was in our room assuring us how smoothly it would go. She mentioned how Jess looked fine and this is probably just precautionary. Nothing to worry about. They’ll just take some blood and we’ll make sure everything is fine, and be on our way. I was pulled in two directions, one direction was occupying half my mind with terrifying thoughts of what might happen. Of course only considering the worst case scenario, whatever it entailed, it was bad though. The other half of my mind was stuck on what a waste of time this is, how expensive it was going to be since we don’t have insurance, and how late we’d get home when we had to drive all the way back to Dallas. The certified midwife on staff was named Sharon*. She was the one who came to deliver the news. She stumbled over her words for a moment and then said “I don’t know how to tell you this. You’re going to need an emergency C-section. I don’t think there’s any way to even try a vaginal birth.” I’m not going to say I was stoic when this news was delivered. I was heart broken for my wife. She wanted nothing more than to deliver this baby on her terms. I teared up pretty bad but thought I’d be able to hold it together, until she started sobbing uncontrollably. I failed. I did what I could to console her. Sharon* reassured us that we were in good care then asked if Jess had eaten anything on the way, perhaps we could do the C-section now. We told her about the Cheez-it and she said “ok we’ll wait for tomorrow. We can’t do it if you have had anything to eat.” We notified Jenee as soon as the tears slowed and sat and waited. Sharon* came back and gave Jess some pill for some reason. I’m not good under pressure like this, so I can’t really recall what it was for, but I do know that shortly after she took it she just spaced out. She was high. I was jealous wondering if I’d get one. She seemed so carefree. I wanted that. Instead I finished up the conversation with Jenee. Called my brother to let him know he needed to handle the pups and that we wouldn’t be coming home. I sent some texts to family and then decided I better get a few things from the store. I waited for Jess to fall asleep and ran out to Walmart to prepare for the next day. My clothes were filthy, I was ravenous and my mind was too damn busy for sleep.

The big day. The day all of this crap will be behind us! Dr. The O.B. showed up to clue us in to what was going on. He informed us that Jess was in fact pre-eclamptic and more than that was suffering from some terrible thing called HELLPs. More like UN-HELLPS. When we asked what HELLPs was we were just bombarded with a bunch of doctor words that meant nothing to me. All of it sounded terrifying however that’s probably because it was all wrapped in in a nifty box called syndrome. I’m not sure but I don’t think there’s such thing as a good syndrome. Jenee arrived and we filled her in. She didn’t say much, but she did a great job of making it feel like everything was normal and that this was just a bump in the road. Not a big deal. Dr. The O.B. came back to the room with an IV bag of platelets, and some medication used for the pre-eclampsia. He informed us we needed to raise Jess’ platelet count before we could even attempt the C-section. After administering a couple of bags of platelets she was prepped and ready, even though they still weren’t pleased with the count, they needed to move fast to make sure they could at least contain the pre-eclampsia. This is where I was left out. Jess was moved to the main OR at the hospital so that they had immediate access to any equipment that may be needed and Jenee and I were sent to the waiting room. We sat and talked for a while, about 30 minutes and then Jenee started to pace. I had no idea how long it should take so I assumed she just didn’t want to sit. Forty-five minutes went by and Jenee mentioned that it’s taking a little long but perhaps there was some politics in the OR that have lengthened the process. We didn’t hear anything until just after an hour passed. We were notified that the baby was born and he’s doing great, just working on Jess. Jenee seemed relieved about that and so I was too. They brought my baby to me and handed him to me with a big smile and said “he’s so precious! The most adorable baby I’ve ever seen!” “What the f#$% am I supposed to do with this thing?” I wondered to myself. I stood there and held him up awkwardly. “Where’s Jess” I asked. I mean I heard so many times how she couldn’t wait for him to be born and hold him skin on skin, and nurse him, and cuddle him. I don’t remember having to hold my son in front of random strangers, under their scrutiny, as though they were testing to see if I would be a good single father. It was almost like I was shopping for lingerie at Victoria’s Secret without a woman. I was being watched like some weirdo. Seriously… what the hell am I supposed to do? Jenee and Sharon* said some things to me to bring me to ease but let’s be realistic, this wasn’t part of the plan. This is Jess’ thing. My plan was to watch and shed tears of joy. Not be the sole caregiver of a newborn. I can’t nurse him. This doesn’t even make sense! Sharon* assured me Jess would be out in a few minutes and to head upstairs. So Jenee escorted me upstairs where instead of Jess getting to experience the first moments of skin on skin, it was me. I was thrust into this awkward moment by myself, without my support, with the one person in my life who I needed to prove myself to, my son. Jenee urged that skin on skin with me was almost as good as with Jess so I peeled off my shirt, felt awkward and self-conscious and realized the only judging eyes in the room were my own. So I unwrapped Hansi and placed him on my chest where we just sat and he looked up at me.

Baby Hans

This was heavy. This might be my reality. I could be the only one there for my son. All I could think was “this kid is doomed…” Time went by. At first I was counting the minutes. Staring at the clock. Then I just stopped. A watched pot never boils… you know, that kind of thing, so I just sat there with Hansi and Jenee assumed my role. She began calling downstairs every 10-15 minutes inquiring about Jess. Finally after some ungodly amount of time they said “we’re having difficulty stabilizing her. We’ll move her to ICU as soon as she’s stable enough to move.” Call me crazy, but I was always under the impression that ICU was where unstable people were sent. It seemed like my worst fears were getting closer by the minute, this kid was doomed, I will be a single dad, and Jess wouldn’t have been able to realize the skin on skin contact of her own creation. We took a lot of bold chances but perhaps they finally caught up to us. I had sent texts to inform family about Jess going in for a C-section. We had prayers and wishes for luck. I texted my in-laws, and as the time passed my mother-in-law continued to inquire. I responded a couple of times, I even sent pictures of Hansi. This of course was not the news everyone was awaiting and soon texts were going unanswered. Eventually we were given the fantastic news that Jess was moved to ICU. It’s not very often that your loved one in ICU is good news, but I must say it filled me with hope. It was a step in the right direction because I’m pretty sure there was no room for a step in the other direction. Jenee told me to go downstairs and see her, she’d watch Hansi for me, and so that’s what I did. I ventured down to the ICU as soon as I could. I found Jess’ room and crept in. She laid there. She was motionless, frigid cold to the touch yet wrapped in blankets. Her skin was nearly translucent, her heart rate was low, blood pressure dismal. It looked as though she was dying and this was their attempt to let me see her one last time. She was unresponsive. It’s probably obvious how I reacted. I went back upstairs to see Jenee and told her about how Jess looked down there. She said she wanted to go check on her. I sat there with Hansi again, the gravity of the situation seeming to have acquired much more pull than earlier. How do I do this alone? When I married Jess it wasn’t for the thought of children, it was for a future with her, and this reality didn’t seem to have room in it for her. Jenee came back upstairs and told me to call her family. She informed me she couldn’t find Sharon* and that her parent’s have a right to know what’s happening. She was right. I went back downstairs to see Jess and find Sharon*, I found Sharon* first. I told her I was going to call my in-laws and needed to know what to tell them. I asked her “can I tell them that Jess is going to recover and that everything is fine, or do I tell them they need to get out here as soon as possible?” Sharon* tried to respond while I was talking but I hand cut her off with my questioning and her response was “tell them to come out here.” I did just that. I walked outside and made sure to get away from the entrances and sidewalks. I called my mom first, hoping that I could release enough sorrow on the phone that I could have a reasonably collected conversation with her mom. All it did was convince my parents to get on the road. I didn’t protest. After I hung up I immediately called my in-laws. My mother-in-law asked how Jess was doing. Asked why I wasn’t responding. I told her we had not been receiving any updates so I didn’t have anything to tell her before. I told her about the conversation with Sharon* and that they should get on a plane and get here as soon as possible. They did just that. Jess finally came to in ICU where they were routinely changing out IVs of blood. I witnessed them change it 8 times, however I do not know how many units she received. She was coherent though after a while, and although there was some moments that seemed like they’d be her last, that team never stopped fighting and neither did Jess. I spent a lot of the day between being in the ICU with Jess and giving Jenee a break.

(Jessica) A few days, or hours who knows, I awoke. I was alone and empty and so I let the medication drag me back under. I woke again but this time my husband was at my side begging me to hold on, to not leave him alone, that he couldn’t do this without me. I didn’t understand. I tried to talk some sense into him, to tell him I was ok and that we would be home soon, but all that came out was a few squeaks. It had taken the anesthesiologist eight minutes to intubate me, normally a 30 second step, and in the process scarring my trachea making it difficult to talk and swallow. So I weakly whispered affirmations of love and healing and that I felt great, but only terrified doubt lay in his eyes. I remember waking again later and asking for Hans but I was told he was with our baby on another floor in the hospital. They weren’t allowed to leave that floor and I was still too sick to return to the maternity ward.

(Hans) Jenee stayed with us that day. It was much needed. I couldn’t have done it without her. She was a blessing and I wish there was some way I could thank her. I wish I could pay her for her time, or return the favor. She made sure to acquire donor breast milk and took the responsibility to feed my baby. She changed his diapers. I was clueless. That night the head nurse said she would be taking Hansi downstairs to see Jess. He was going to nurse one way or another. I mentioned something I had heard in passing about the doc not wanting Hansi down there yet and her response was “I don’t care what anyone says, she’s going to nurse.” I knew Jess would be pleased, because I was, and she was right. She brought Hansi downstairs and Jess was given the opportunity to nurse him on his first day of life. It may not have been in the plan, but her wish was still granted.

Jessica and baby

(Jessica) I argued with the doctors that I was strong enough to at least nurse my baby. Concerns flooded through me, would he know me, remember me, feel safe and loved in my embrace? How coldly he was torn from my body, so soon before our due date. I had lost the chance to birth, to become a real woman, to understand my body. But my pleas were heard and my baby was brought down. I was complete again, my worries quickly melted away, of course he remembered me and we nursed and fell in love all over again. I looked to my husband and said “We made that, a miracle baby.” Hans Wulfric was born June 11, 2013.

We just want to extend a special thank you to Jenee Ohrvall w/ Sacred Path Midwifery for everything that she did for us from the start. Thanks to Caryn Westdyk for being such a fun and knowledgable Birth Bootcamp instructor. Thanks to Dr. Jim Bob Haggerton for providing fantastic Chiropractic care. Finally,a big thank you to the team at Texas Health Harris @ Cleburne for everything you did for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding over the years

Last week was breastfeeding week, so I thought I would share about my experiences over the years with breastfeeding. I’m sure some would be surprised to hear that breastfeeding did not always come easy to me. It took my third child before I finally got the hang out of it. I do believe that breastfeeding is natural and the best for baby if possible, but sometimes it does not come easy. It can be hard work. But it’s worth it. I also realize that it doesn’t end up working for everyone, even when they work hard at it. This is not meant to shame anyone with their experience with breastfeeding, I just want to share my own story.

My first child ended up being born by cesarean. The hospital that I birthed at was not very baby or mother friendly, and pretty much took him from me right after he was born. I did have a few short moments with him in the recovery room before they whisked him away, but I was so drugged up and out of sorts that the thought of immediately breastfeeding never crossed my mind. Then he was taken away from me for FOUR hours. That’s right, I didn’t see him until almost midnight that night! I was exhausted by the time they finally brought him to me. The nurse plopped him down in front of me and said something to the effect of, “Go ahead and try and nurse him now.” Um, okay? What do I do? I was so lost. I knew I wanted to breastfeed for sure, but had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was late at night and even though the nurse was there to “help,” I felt helpless. I put my son to the breast, and I think he sort of latched on. That’s when the nurse basically said, “ Good luck, let us know if you need anything”, and walked out the door. I’m sure I cried several times that night. The next morning they were already talking about supplementing, saying things like, “He isn’t getting much.” In hindsight, how on earth could they have known at that point how much he was getting? My milk wasn’t even in yet! But I believed them. I was trying to pump to bring my milk in faster, and then the formula was offered. My son had to have an IV because they were watching him closely for a possible infection and they were concerned about making sure he got enough right away. I believed it. How was I supposed to know otherwise?

Carterbf

I went home 4 days later and we still weren’t really nursing well. I was still supplementing with the premade formula bottles that were given to me in the hospital and was pretty much at the point of not even trying to nurse. A dear friend of mine came over to try and help me a little. He was crying every time I tried to put him to the breast and I would just give up and give him a bottle. I thought maybe there was something wrong with my nipples, his latch, I didn’t know. I just knew that this wasn’t working. A few days later my Mom came in town to help me and spend time with the baby. She could see that I was so discouraged that nursing wasn’t working. I pretty much said that I wasn’t even going to try anymore. My sweet Mom said, “Caryn, why don’t you just give it one more try? Just go back in your room, close the door, and see what happens?” So I did. Amazingly, he latched on without crying! I was so overjoyed that he was actually nursing! But the damage had already been done. I did manage to squeeze in 4 solid months of nursing, but did continue to supplement with formula in between feedings. Unfortunately, he began to prefer the bottle again and I finally just called it quits after 4 months. I had to go back to work, and pumping full time did not seem like a fun option to me, especially when my son was quite content with the formula.

With my second baby I had hoped for a VBAC. I hoped that a vaginal birth would help to get breastfeeding off to a better start. Same hospital, same situation. My baby girl was taken away for 4 hours. Same rocky start as the last time, but I at least knew a little more this time around. She latched on a little bit better than my first. But I was fearful. I was afraid she wasn’t going to get enough, and again I began to supplement with formula from the start. It was almost as if I thought that was how it was done. You nurse and then give a bottle. Normal right? I nursed her for about 4-5 months before calling it quits.

Sydbf

With my third baby, even though he was a planned cesarean, I was bound and determined to get this thing right! He was taken away from me just as the others, but I spent a little more time holding him in the recovery room before he was taken away. I kept calling them until they finally brought him to me. Since it was planned and not late at night, I was a little more awake during our first nursing session. This time it seemed so much different! I did not once give him a bottle while I was in the hospital. In fact, in the 15 months that I went on to breastfeed my third child, he only took a bottle once! Please don’t get me wrong, I do not feel that formula is evil. I just knew in my heart that I had the means to feed my child and was determined to make it work this time. It paid off. I would probably have nursed him longer than 15 months, but I was pregnant with my 4th child, and my milk was already starting to dry up. When he stopped nursing, it was a very natural stopping point. I was very happy we had made it that far.

 

Nursing1Nursing2

My 4th baby was my first natural birth. I had educated myself about breastfeeding and the importance of skin to skin immediately after the baby is born. I had no idea about skin to skin with my first three births! As soon as my daughter was born, she was put on my skin. They didn’t take her away from me, except to briefly weigh her and put a diaper on. She never left my chest otherwise. Within an hour, she was latching on and nursing! I could not believe this! I had never experienced this before. Nursing throughout the rest of the day and night was so much easier because of this and because I had been so much more successful with my last baby. The lactation consultant came by to see me, but I really didn’t need her help. I went on to nurse her for 2 years! I would have possibly nursed her even longer, but I was pregnant with my 5th child when we stopped. I was not really interested in tandem nursing but had hoped to nurse her almost to the end of my pregnancy. I got sick in the middle of my pregnancy for a solid month and was having a hard time keeping up with breastfeeding. At this point my daughter really was just nursing for comfort more than for nourishment. Since I was so congested from being sick, I really felt so constricted trying to nurse her. So I called it quits. She was not happy at first. I was still nursing her to sleep at this point, and my husband and I had to figure out how to get her to sleep without Mommy helping her. She was so connected to me and needed me by her side to settle into sleep. But it didn’t take long for her to get it. It took about 4 days before she was content with going to sleep without me helping her. Once in awhile she would look at me and pat my chest and say “Nursie?” I would have to sadly say no. It was a sad moment for me. I really loved those two years with her. I can’t even describe the unbelievable bond we had. Nursing an older child is such a rewarding experience. I think a lot of women feel that at 1, they need to stop. I’m so glad I didn’t stop.

IMG_9512

(This is me nursing my baby less than an hour after she was born!)

Now I am nursing my 5th child who is currently 3 months old. He is growing like crazy, just on his mama’s milk. He is already around 16 lbs and wearing 9 months clothing! He latched pretty quickly after he was born and continues to do well. Now it seems like clockwork. I don’t have to think about it as much as I did in the beginning.

Breastfeeding1

 

 

Nursing

(Photos by Hawkins Photography)

I love the moments I have shared with my babies through breastfeeding. No, it hasn’t always been easy. It is hard work and sometimes things don’t go the way you think it should. Is it worth it? Every minute of it is! I’m so thankful that my Mom encouraged me not to give up with my first child. If I had, who knows how things would have gone with my babies after that? Maybe I wouldn’t have even tried.

Now I am doing as my Mom did by passing my love of breastfeeding on to my own children. This is my sweet daughter who loves to pretend she is nursing her dolls. I hope that some day she too will share these sweet moments with her babies.Sydney nursing

 

Overcoming your fears of another cesarean

There is a lot of talk about fears surrounding VBACs, mainly because of the small risk of uterine rupture. But what if you have already decided to have a VBAC and have fears about ending up with another cesarean birth? This post is for you! When I first started my journey to have a VBAC, I knew without a doubt that I wanted (needed) to set myself up completely for success. No regrets, I was jumping in head first!

In order to overcome your current fears of having another cesarean, you need to do a little fact checking:

  1. Have you hired the right provider? There isn’t a right or wrong provider when having a VBAC other than he/she HAS to be 100% supportive. You just can’t compromise on this one. Midwife, OB, birth center, hospital or home, the support of your provider is the most important aspect to success with a VBAC, hands down. I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is choosing a provider that you think may be supportive and then in the end really isn’t. I call it the bait and switch provider. He/she acts supportive in the beginning but then when it comes down at the end, finds an excuse to change the plans and you end up with a repeat cesarean. It happens too often. It happened to me. With a 100% supportive provider you will know that he/she will have your best interest and your baby’s best interest in mind. Be willing to drive a little (or a lot) to be with the right provider. I promise it will be worth it.
  2. Have you taken a childbirth class? Whether you plan on having a natural birth or epidural, your goal is a vaginal birth. A comprehensive childbirth class will teach you so much more than how to have a natural birth. There is a reason our classes are 10 weeks long. I think VBAC mamas can especially benefit from taking a class. One of the biggest reasons we ended up with a cesarean to begin with is because of medical interventions. In our classes we teach about these interventions and how to be prepared for them. Some interventions may be needed. In class you were learn when it may or may not be appropriate to have these interventions. You will be ready for these interventions and know when it would be appropriate to say yes or no thank you to them. Knowledge is power.
  3. Are you getting regular chiropractic care during your pregnancy? To some of you, this may seem like a foreign concept. Why on earth would I need to see a chiropractor while I’m pregnant? One of the biggest reasons for cesarean births today is the position of the baby. A Webster certified chiropractor adjusts your pelvis to help the baby get into the most optimal position for birth. Regular chiropractic care during your pregnancy opens your pelvis, giving your baby the best opportunity to move into the most optimal position for birth, which can also greatly reduce your labor time.
  4. Have you assembled a supportive birth team? Along with your supportive provider, you need to make sure you have a team of people supporting you in labor. Is your partner supportive of your wishes to birth vaginally this time? One of the best ways to get him on board is to take a class together. During the 10 weeks in class, he will learn how to best help and support you in labor. Have you hired a doula? Some women think that if they are birthing with a midwife, a doula isn’t needed. Some also think a supportive partner is all that is needed. I believe every woman should have a doula! My husband agrees, we couldn’t have done it without the support of our doula! She supports the partner too. It is so important that you find a doula that you click with. My doula and I clicked immediately because we had a shared experience in that she had also had a VBAC after 3 cesareans with the same OB. It isn’t necessary that your doula have had a VBAC, but it was something that immediately bonded us together. Studies have shown that doula attended births reduces the need for a cesarean by about 50%! Go hire a doula! You won’t regret it.
  5. Do you have a birth plan? No, it’s not a contract. It may not go exactly as planned every time. But if you don’t have a plan to begin with, how will you know what decisions to make when it comes down to crunch time? Plan it out with your partner. Decide what is most important to you in your birth. At my last birth, my charge nurse told me that she carefully read through my birth plan and hand-picked the most natural minded nurse for my delivery because she knew that was going to be important to me. That nurse ended up delivering my baby in the end because my baby came so quickly and the OB didn’t make it in time! A birth plan shouldn’t be a list of demands, but it should very clearly state what is most important to you.

Now that we have done a little fact checking, how do you feel moving forward? Are you confident that you have the right support, have a plan and have done everything you can to be successful with a vaginal birth? If the answer is yes, you can find comfort in knowing that IF you do end with another cesarean, it will be because it was necessary for the safety of you and your baby. I truly found comfort in this, because I knew without a doubt that my OB was not going to spring some unnecessary interventions that were going to spiral out of control and lead me to another cesarean. I knew that if I ended up with another one, it would be a needed cesarean.

If you are still struggling with these fears, what are some things you can do?

  1. Talk about it with like-minded people. I am a part of several different online VBAC support groups. I love talking with these women, because they understand what I’m going through! Find your local ICAN group. Go to a meeting, or just join a group online. Talk through your fears. These women get you. I promise. They’ve been through it all! When things come up on your journey that you are not sure about, ask the group. Chances are, someone in the group has experienced the same thing.
  2. Surround yourself with positivity. There will always be those voices around you that say, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Not everyone around you has done the research on VBACs that you have done. They don’t know the true risks of VBAC vs. a repeat cesarean and many people won’t listen to the facts even if you tell try to tell them. Don’t listen to the negative voices. If you have to distance yourself from certain people during your pregnancy, do it. Block out the negativity and surround yourself with positivity. It’s a mind game. Get your head in the game and don’t let that affect you!
  3. Write your thoughts down. One of the things I enjoyed doing during my first VBA3C was blogging about my journey. To me it was not only therapeutic, but it was also motivational for me. I knew that I had people cheering me on which was all the more motivational for me to come out successful in the end! If you enjoy writing, start a blog. If you are more of a private person, journal about your thoughts. Sometimes just writing things down can help you get through your struggles.
  4. Believe in yourself and the process of birth! Women have been doing this thing called birth for many years. My OB once said, “Don’t let your birth experience be stolen because you were afraid.” The process of birth is normal. Your body was made to do this. Yes, sometimes things go wrong, and a cesarean may be needed. Just trust that if you have done everything right, a cesarean will only be needed if absolutely necessary. Cesareans are not needed in 1 out of every 3 births.
  5. If you are still struggling after all of this, you may need to seek professional help. Find a counselor or therapist that specializes in birth trauma. The last thing you want to do going into a trial of labor is to have fears that are not dealt with.

Now that you have dealt with those fears, move forward in confidence! Believe in yourself. You can do this!

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The 2VBA3C birth of Cayden Daniel

This is the birth story of my second VBA3C. It was a long hard pregnancy. I’m not going to lie. With my first VBA3C, I talked about it daily. I blogged about my journey, and included everyone in it. With this pregnancy, I was pretty quiet. Not because I wasn’t excited about being, pregnant again (I was!!) It was just a different pregnancy this time. Even though I was doing all the right things (going to the chiropractor regularly, doing my pelvic tilts and sitting on my birth ball) I still had unbelievable back pain. My belly was huge almost from the moment of conception, so I was carrying around a lot of weight for a very long time. Halfway through the pregnancy, I got very sick and was sick for almost a month. It even landed me in the ER with panic attacks related to the illness. It was awful and I never quite recovered.

This is also the first time that we didn’t name the baby until the birth. I know that was hard on my husband as he always liked to have the name nailed down early on. We struggled between several names for a very long time, and I just knew I couldn’t decide until he was born. There was this disconnect that I have a hard time explaining. I wished I could have an amazing water birth at home or in a birth center but had chosen to stay with my supportive Doctor in the hospital. I was at peace with this decision but still wished I could have that Midwife birth I so longed for.

I learned at 37 weeks that I was Group B Strep positive again. This meant that I would have to try and make it to the hospital early in my labor to receive antibiotics before the baby was born. This happened the last time, so I was prepared for this. Since my last labor went super quick from the time my water had broken, I was prepared to head to the hospital soon after my water broke this time around. I just knew that I would end up delivering a baby on the side of the road otherwise.

Starting at about 38.5 weeks, I started what is called “prodromal labor.” For those of you who have not experienced this, it’s not fun. Stop and start contractions that can last anywhere from a day to several weeks before you actually give birth. Each time the contractions would start up, I would think something was happening, and then later on it would die down. I think I wore out my cell phone texting my doula that I was so tired of this stop and start pattern. At my 39 week appointment with Dr. C, I decided to let him check my cervix. I knew I was risking a mind game, but I really wanted to know if these contractions were doing anything. I was 3 cm, 50% effaced and -1 station! I knew I could stay this way awhile, but I was encouraged.

My due date was Easter Sunday, also one day after my birthday. The day before my birthday, I thought for sure labor was starting. I had strong contractions all evening, and then it suddenly stopped again. I sat on my floor and just cried. I knew that I could very well be pregnant two more weeks and was willing to go that far, but really couldn’t imagine two more weeks of this. I cried on the phone to my doula, Katie, and she encouraged me to get my mind off things. The next day I enjoyed my birthday with my family and friends. I didn’t have contractions all day. I just enjoyed my day. I went to bed that night thinking I was in for the long haul. I woke up around 1 am to contractions. They weren’t super strong, but they were enough to wake me up. I walked around a bit because I couldn’t get back to sleep. Around 2 am I was standing in my living room and felt a gush of water down my leg and saw a puddle on the floor below me. Was my water really breaking 2 hours past my due date? I walked around some more and then around 2:30, another big gush of water. So I called my doula. Typically, I wouldn’t suggest rushing once your water breaks, but I had in the back of my mind what happened the last time and I was concerned about getting the antibiotics in time. The contractions were picking up, so I decided to head to the hospital around 4 am. I called my photographer and another Birth Boot Camp instructor who was planning on observing my birth. Everyone was on the way to meet me there. My nurse’s name was April and she was fabulous. Caryn She checked my cervix and told me I was still only 3 cm and head had moved back to -2 station. Not only that, I tested negative for amniotic fluid. I felt so defeated. April called the on call Doctor, Dr. B and said she wanted me to walk the halls for an hour and then come back to be checked.

So we walked, and walked, and walked some more.

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I had my entourage of women following me, while my dear husband took a nap on the hospital bed! He said I was too calm to be in real labor… Steve sleeping

When I was re-checked, she said I was 4 cm, but still had a bulging bag of waters. So Dr. B. sent me home. She said despite my GBS status, I had a better chance of VBAC if I went home.

 

NurseSo home I went! We took a nap for a few hours while our kids were at Easter services with our friends. Then we had lunch with our kids and friends. My labor was stalled. Contractions were sporadic and didn’t hurt much. I was so frustrated! By evening, I was so discouraged that I called Katie for advice. She said it was best for me to lie down and get some rest, since a tired uterus is not a productive uterus. This was the best advice! I lied down around 8 pm and the contractions started picking up within 15 minutes! By 9 pm, the contractions were so strong and close together, I was pacing around the house for fear that the baby was going to be born on the way to the hospital! Our friend arrived around 9:30 to stay with the kids who were already in bed, and by 9:40 we were on our way back to the hospital.

Katie was already there waiting for us when we arrived around 10:15 to get checked back in. We were in the same room as the last time, and since it had been more than 12 hours since we left, April was back on shift and was our nurse again! She was the charge nurse this time and said that she had carefully read my birth plan and hand selected the most natural minded nurse for my delivery! April checked me again, and I was 5 cm. Not exactly where I wanted to be still, but I knew this time it was the real deal and there was no way I was leaving! Caryn2 She asked me to walk the halls again. This time, Steve did not get a free pass! He had to walk with us.

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This time, there wasn’t much talking on our walk. A lot of stopping through contractions, deep breathing and belly lifts to get baby’s head to engage. Around midnight I was checked again, and I was 6 cm. Finally, they officially agreed to check me in! Looking back, I am so thankful they took so long to “check me in” officially. Otherwise, I would have been on a time clock and who knows what would have happened. Since I was GBS positive, she immediately put in my IV and administered the antibiotics.

Once that was done, things started to get serious real fast. Contractions were strong and close together. I labored on all fours over the birth ball.

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I was so exhausted from being up all day, I really just wanted to sleep. We got out my essential oils and put Valor on my neck to help calm me.

 

OilsWithin minutes, I was asleep! I slept for about 20 minutes through some pretty hard contractions! I needed that power nap, because I was almost ready to push! We had music playing to help calm me and peppermint on hand for any nausea.

 

Playlist

I wish I hadn’t been checked so often, but again I asked the nurse to check my cervix. I was so certain that it was the end. 7 cm.  Judging from my last labor, I knew that it could happen at any moment. Last labor, I went from 8 cm to 10 cm in 5 minutes. The nurses left the room to call the Doctor to be prepared. Katie took me to the bathroom to have me sit on the toilet. Within seconds I was screaming to stand back up. I could feel the baby moving down and felt like he was ready to come out! I was so sure that the baby was going to come out right then and there. Katie and Jayde, the delivery nurse, quickly got me back to the bed. By this point my body was already telling me to bear down and push. Jayde checked me and said I was just about complete. I sat up in the bed and just began to push. No one in the room told me when to push.  They simply let me do my thing. I never heard any counting during my pushes.  Jayde was wonderful. She stayed out of the way, but was there the whole time. Dr. B. was still nowhere to be seen, but that didn’t matter. I kept pushing when I felt the urge and rested if I needed to. Then the head came out and I heard my baby cry. His body wasn’t quite out yet, but I never panicked. Jayde was calm and helped guide the shoulders out on the next push. I heard one of the nurses say that Dr. B. was in the parking lot.  I was so determined to have that body out, I yelled, “Come on baby, come out now!!” He must have listened to me, because he was out on the last push!

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They immediately put him on me skin to skin, and I said, “Hello Cayden!” I knew in that moment that his name was Cayden. We had gone back and forth on names for so long, but it just felt right in the moment.

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He was born exactly at 2 am, 24 hours after I had felt my first gush of water at home. He was huge as far as I could see! He had cute little rolls in his legs and neck. He was just perfect in every way.  A minute or two later, Dr. B. was standing there beaming at me, saying “Great job Mama!” She was so sweet and patient. She waited for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it.

 

Cord

She let the placenta come out without tugging impatiently on it.

I really didn’t think that this birth could possibly have topped my last VBA3C, but I have to say it did. Amazingly, Dr. C. was not even at this birth. I was so worried about whether or not he would be at my birth, but learned that it didn’t even matter. He has done such an amazing job training the other Doctors and nurses at that hospital.  They truly respected my wishes in every way imaginable. In the end, I even got that Midwife birth I was hoping for! I learned after the fact, that Jayde had recently moved to the U.S. from Australia where she was a Midwife!

 

Jayde

She was the perfect person to be there to help me bring my little Cayden Daniel into the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth team.

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Cayden weighed in at 9 lbs 4 oz (my biggest baby yet!) and 20 inches. Within 40 minutes, he was latched on and nursing!

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We did it! Again! Hard work, determination and an amazing team. We did it!

A special woman with a special scar

Did you know that there are different types of scars when you have a cesarean section? There is a whole group called Special Scars dedicated to promoting awareness to this and supporting women who have them. Did you also know that a scar other than the traditional bikini cut can actually hinder you even further from having a VBAC?

A special scar is a scar resulting from a Classical, Inverted T, J, Low Vertical, Upright T or any other cesarean incision other than the most often used Low Transverse or bikini cut. Also, any scar resulting from a myomectomy incision, IUD puncture, rupture or other unusual uterine scar. Many providers will refuse to allow women to have a VBAC with a special scar, even though the risk of uterine rupture may only be slightly higher than a traditional scar.  My amazing doula, Katie, had a VBA3C with an inverted T scar. Her first provider told her that she would never deliver vaginally, or she and her baby would surely bleed out and die.

I found out recently that my own Mom has a special scar! I knew she had two VBACs, but had no idea they were with a special scar! I sat down with my Mom over the Thanksgiving holiday to hear a little more about her story. In 1973 when she was pregnant with her first child, she had the very strong desire to have a natural birth. She and my Dad prepared themselves by taking a Lamaze class. She was so disappointed when she went into labor and was told that the baby was transverse. She had a cesarean section and was given a classical incision. A classical incision is a vertical incision in the upper segment of the uterus, which was most used when they first started doing cesareans.  The Doctor who performed her surgery was not hopeful that she would ever have a vaginal birth.

 

Mom

When she became pregnant again in 1975 (with me!) she had just moved to a new area. She found a new Doctor who was, as she put it, “Old fashioned and laid back.” He told her that he saw no reason why she couldn’t have a vaginal birth. She went on to have a natural vaginal birth without any complications and then had another in 1985 when my brother was born. The birth in 1985 was with yet another Doctor as we were living in a whole new state by that time. Neither Doctor ever gave her any issues with having a vaginal birth after a cesarean with a special scar.

I asked my Mom, “Do you have any idea what an accomplishment that is?” She seemed surprised and had no idea that it was even a big deal! She knew it was a big deal to have a vaginal birth after a cesarean but had no idea that her special scar added an even bigger element to the equation. I’m not even sure she knew she had a special scar, since most cesareans at that time were given a classical incision.

Just a bit of a history lesson on VBACs, in case you are wondering why this is such an accomplishment. In the early 1970’s when my Mom had her first cesarean, the cesarean rate was only around 5%. Even though it was so low, the old saying “Once a cesarean, always a cesarean” was upheld most of the time. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the pendulum switched and women began fighting for vaginal birth after cesarean. The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) was first introduced in 1982 which brought much awareness to this issue. Doctors finally began to take notice that vaginal birth may be a safer route than previously thought. Despite this change, many providers were still hesitant and women had a hard time finding providers that would support them in their desires.

I began to think about all the women today who struggle so much to have the birth they desire. There are so many women who have to fight to get the birth they desire because it is hard to even get in the door with a supportive enough provider, let alone be able to stay the course and be successful in the end.

We have so many resources today to help us down the road, like ICAN, yet so many women just give up hope because they are told things like, “You will surely bleed out and die.” I keep hearing stories in my VBAC groups where providers tell these Moms that the risk of rupture is as high as 60-70%! This is not true, but without knowing the facts, what is a woman left to believe? My Mom did it without the help of ICAN or many of the other resources we have today. She just had the desire to have a natural vaginal birth. Maybe she just got lucky, finding a provider that truly supported her. She had a VBAC at a time when it was rarely done and the cesarean rate was already rising. Whatever the case, it’s just another reason for me to be reminded that my Mom is pretty amazing!

For more information on special scars, please visit: Special Scars

Say what? What to do with unsolicited advice.

It’s inevitable. The moment you announce you are pregnant, people around you will have an opinion. Everyone wants to give their opinion from your pregnancy choices to birth choices to parenting choices.  Each person is certain they are right and you must listen to their wisdom! What is a new parent to do with all of this advice, whether solicited or not?

I’ve been thinking back to when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Oh that seems to be so many moons ago, but really it was only about 8 years ago! In the past 8 years I have learned so much about pregnancy, birth and parenting as I have lived through it, through experiences both good and bad. You learn from your mistakes, you pick up and move on. I have thought about all of the “bad advice” I was given as a new Mom to be. Please do not misunderstand my tone in this. I am not trying to say that these people were bad or trying to steer me wrong. I believe they all had very good intentions, but just may have been ill informed. I will highlight my top 8 “bad advice” given and what I have learned through trial and error.

  1. You MUST read “What to Expect while you are expecting”! It’s like the Bible of all things Pregnancy and Birth!

Now, I do realize that this is a popular book. And yes, I did read it. I even bought some of the sequels for parenting advice. It is an easy format to read and it is obvious why it is popular among many new Moms to be. Unfortunately, it isn’t the most “natural birth friendly” or really evidence based in much of the book. I wish I had been given “The Birth Book” by Dr. Sears or “Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn” by Penny Simkin. Maybe I would have made some different choices in the beginning of my first pregnancy had I read books like that instead.

2. Just trust your Doctor. He/She only has your best interest in mind.

I know if you know me well enough or have been following my blog, you know that I am NOT anti-Doctor. I have an amazing Doctor that I love and trust completely now.  Unfortunately, not all Doctors do have your best interest in mind. My first Doctor did not. When I look back to my first two cesarean births, I see that they were both performed in the 6:00 hour, quitting time so to speak. I don’t believe that had anything do with my best interest, but rather my Doctor’s best interest. There are plenty of other things I could list where she did not act in my best interest throughout my pregnancy and deliveries. But I won’t bore you with those details. The bottom line is this: not all Doctors are acting in your best interest, so you need to be educated and ready to fight for the birth you desire! You need to be your own advocate and know what you do and don’t want. If you don’t feel that your Doctor (or Midwife for that matter) is on the same page as you and your partner, it may be a good idea to find a new one! That is why education early on in your pregnancy is so important. Know the pros and cons of everything and decide early on what matters to you in your birth. Because it is YOUR birth, not your provider’s birth! Remember that.

3. Just get an induction! You can decide the day that your baby is born.

Oh man, if there was ever a bad advice given, this would be it. Just say no to induction unless it is truly medically necessary (which more often than not, it is not!) A big baby is not a reason for an induction. Going past your estimated due date is not a reason for induction (unless you are at 42 weeks or more.) Yeah, I get that pregnancy is a pain at the very end, quite literally. I remember how unbelievably miserable I was three days before my “due date” with my first baby. I was done and didn’t want to be pregnant a day longer. Of course I jumped the first second my Doctor even mentioned the word induction! The truth of the matter is, had I waited just a little bit longer, my baby may have come on his own and I may have avoided that first cesarean. Induction will not work if the baby is not ready to come yet, plain and simple. I get it. We are impatient, tired, and just plain ready when it comes to the very end. Just hang on a little bit longer there mama. No one has ever been pregnant forever! I promise!

4. Just go ahead and get the epidural right away. Why go through any of the pain if you  don’t have to?

Induction

With my first, I never felt a single contraction. I was given the epidural even BEFORE I was officially induced! I was just lying in bed all day waiting for things to happen. Unfortunately, from what I have learned now, that was a bad idea. Even if you plan to have an epidural, it is best to wait until a little bit later in labor to get it. My Doctor says to wait until 5-6 cm dilated. It is often disputed whether or not the epidural can physically slow down labor progress. I won’t get into all that. The fact of the matter is that lying on your back all day can certainly slow down the labor progress! If you have the epidural early on, you are limited in your movement, which can certainly slow things down. It is best to be up and moving and get your baby moving down where he/she needs to be!  It’s not about whether or not you need to go through any pain, it’s about giving yourself the best opportunity of success. Don’t get that epidural too early!

5. Send the baby to the nursery at night so you can get some sleep before you have to go home and do it all on your own!

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While I know those that told me this, had the best intentions, I have learned it is best to never let that baby leave me! We are going to go through months of sleepless nights with a newborn, what are a few days really going to matter? Having that baby with you immediately skin to skin after birth and keeping the baby near to you is so important for bonding and for increasing your milk supply. Nursing as soon as the baby is ready to nurse is the best thing you can do for your baby and your supply. Unfortunately, if the baby is in the nursery, they don’t bring the baby to you as soon as he/she starts crying. They are on a schedule and bring the baby when it’s scheduled to come.  Make sure you find out if your hospital supports baby rooming in with the mother!

6. Babies can and should sleep through the night by 8 weeks old.

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Oh I know I could be opening a whole can of worms with this point. I realize that many of my friends sleep train to some extent, and I am not trying to bash them in any way! I just personally have learned through each of my children that all children are different in their sleep habits and have different needs. I knew the first time I read “Babywise” that it wasn’t for me. I know some people swear by it, but I chose not to do it. I am okay with my babies not sleeping through the night by 8 weeks because I don’t believe it is necessary or even the right thing for them.  I have heard too many stories about babies not thriving and nursing supplies being damaged.

7. Never co-sleep, it’s dangerous!

 

Cosleeping

Along with this, I was told to get my baby used to the crib as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there is so much misinformation out there about co-sleeping. When following safe guidelines, I actually believe it is safer for a baby to be in the bed with you than to be in a crib far away.

8. If you respond to your baby’s cries immediately, you will spoil him/her.

Let’s just put this one to rest once and for all, shall we? You will not spoil your baby. You are showing your baby love by immediately responding to their needs. Yes, as they grow older, you will learn why they are crying. They may not always need to be fed when they cry and so on. You will figure it out as you go. Just respond, and figure it out! Letting them cry isn’t going to “teach them a lesson.” I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t even get the lesson!

What I have learned over the years is to take care of your own decisions regarding birth and parenting. It’s okay to get advice from others, but always make sure you do your own research and be prepared to make the right decisions for you and your family!

 

 

How important is the right provider?

There has been a lot of talk in my small little “birthing world” about what is more important: teaching VBAC Mamas to be stronger so they can stand up for themselves in the hospital, or choosing the right provider who will support your VBAC wishes 100%? Hands down, in my opinion, choose the right provider.

Does this mean that VBAC Mamas shouldn’t be strong and shouldn’t be educated? Absolutely not. All of that is important. That is why I think it is so important to take a comprehensive birth education class like Birth Boot Camp! Taking the time week after week to learn about labor techniques and proper exercise and nutrition is such an important thing to do to prepare yourself for birth! But if you go through all that work in preparation and then get down to the wire and don’t have a 100% supportive provider to back up your wishes, you are going to be fighting a constant uphill battle! Any negativity can greatly affect the birth process. That is why I teach my students to surround themselves only with the people who are going to completely support them (whether a VBAC Mama or first time Mama.) The negative people in your life are going to discourage you from the end goal. Why should you have to go into a birth fighting with your provider? How is being strong and educated going to serve you well in the end? I personally would rather be a strong and educated woman, with a supportive team on my side. That team would include my husband, doula, provider and anyone else that I may need along the way during my pregnancy. They all need to be cheering for me! I need their support! I also just heard the question asked recently, “Why is it so hard for VBAC’s to be successful?” This is why: finding the right support is so hard these days!

I am just going to take this moment to talk about how much I absolutely love my OBGYN. I think a lot of people think that the natural birth world is completely against Doctors and hospitals and only encourages women to birth at home or in birthing centers with Midwives. The truth is, there are really awful Doctors out there. But there are also some really awful Midwives out there. Likewise, there are some really amazing Doctors as well as really amazing Midwives! It is so important to know what questions to ask when choosing your provider and also know what you will feel most comfortable with. Some women will only feel comfortable in the hospital because they are afraid of complications arising. If you are most comfortable in the hospital, it is possible to have the birth you desire! You just have to do your research and find the right provider. Some Midwives deliver in hospitals and there truly are some wonderful OBGYN’s out there!

Like my Doctor. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Dr. Cummings. There are not many like him out there. He is one of the most well-known Doctors in our country who supports VBAC’s 100%. I learned recently that for the first time in 30 years of practice, he is cutting back on how many patients he will take on. This means the inevitable, he is working toward retirement. He has been working closely with a couple of his colleagues to pass on the VBAC torch so to speak. Dr. Cummings not only delivers VBAC’s (after as many c-sections as you have had, he will most likely not pass on you) but he is also completely comfortable with twin vaginal and breech vaginal births. He has worked countless hours above and beyond what most Doctors put in, because he knows he needs to be there for these sometimes complicated births. If he isn’t there, who else is going to support these Mamas? Why does he do what he do? Well he says, “I happen to love bringing babies into the world!” I remember sitting in his office when I first consulted with him and hearing him tell me a story about the first time he chose to do a VBAC. He was in his residency and still “learning” so to speak. He was reprimanded for doing the VBAC and even brought before a board to discuss it. He was grilled out about what went into his decision to do the VBAC. Then in the back of the room, the very famous Dr. Pritchard who co-authored “Williams Obstetrics” asked him, “Did you feel this woman presented with the conditions to vaginally birth?” Dr. Cummings said yes. Pritchard then said, “Well then, case closed, move on.” Dr. Cummings told me that it was at that moment that he decided that VBAC was the right choice. He would always give women the opportunity to have a VBAC if they so choose.

One of Dr. Cumming’s most famous lines is this: “I don’t fear lawyers, I fear God.” He lives and breathes this statement. He prays about each decision he makes. I even remember seeing him praying for me in the middle of my delivery! I trust each and every decision he makes, because I know he is trusting God to guide him. After my baby was born, I remember looking up at him with tears in my eyes. I felt such joy and elation that I was finally given the opportunity to birth as I had so desired. This man gave me that opportunity that so many others wouldn’t dare. I thanked him profusely and told him that there was a special place in heaven for him. He just smiled and shrugged and said, “What did I do? You are the one who did it!” He truly is a rare gem.

My hope and prayer is that more Doctors out there will follow his lead. I get that vaginal birth takes more time. VBAC’s even more, because some hospitals place restrictions on the Doctors to stay on the premises at all times while a VBAC Mom is laboring. One of our VBAC supportive Doctors in the area recently had to stop taking VBAC patients because of this stipulation. More hospitals need to start providing evidence based care and stop placing unnecessary restrictions on Doctors and patients.

I am now pregnant with my 5th child and will probably be delivering with Dr. Cummings for the last time next spring before he ends up retiring. I truly can’t thank this man enough for all he has done for me and so many other women in our area.

Dr C

 

Fear not!

The Dallas area was hit pretty hard the other day with tornadoes. It got me thinking about fears. I asked the following question the other day on my Facebook page Inspiring Birth:  What are some of your fears? Some of the answers I received: Drowning, Tidal Waves,  getting into a car accident and not being able to get to my girls, being buried alive, snakes, free falling. I’m sure there are many other fears that were not mentioned. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where fear surrounds us. Some fears may be rational and others maybe a little irrational. Some healthy fears, some not so healthy fears.

If you know me well, you know I have a big fear of tornadoes. 5 years ago, we bought our first home as a couple. My oldest son, Carter was only 18 months old and I had just found out that we were expecting our little Sydney. I am not a born Texan. My husband and I are both from the northeast, so I am new to this whole storm scene. I never experienced tornadoes or even any kind of storm of that magnitude growing up. So I really never feared storms, until that fateful night. I went to bed that night knowing that they were predicting bad storms, but really didn’t think much of it. Around 3:50 a.m. I heard the tornado sirens blowing. This is the first time I had ever woken up to the sound of tornado sirens. I woke up Steve and quickly ran into Carter’s room to get him out of bed. We went into our hallway bathroom, since it is the only enclosed room in the house and sat in the tub. Suddenly the sirens stopped, and there was silence. We looked at each other and wondered if it was just a false alarm. But then suddenly, we heard the wind! I can’t even describe to you in words the fear that entered my body at that moment. We huddled together shaking like a leaf, praying for our lives! I don’t think we have ever prayed so hard as we did at that moment! The wind was so loud and we literally could hear things tearing apart above our heads. We thought at any moment that the roof was going to come down on us, or worse, we would be blown away with the house. It probably only lasted a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. This was before either of us had a smart phone, so we had no idea what was on the radar or how long this thing was going to last. After the loud winds finally stopped, we just heard rain and a lot of thunder. I think we stayed in that bathroom a good 30 minutes before we finally went out. We walked out, and the roof was still above our heads… but we didn’t learn until a few hours later when the sun came up, what had happened while we were in that bathroom.

This is what we came out to:

Tornado

This is our chimney, as well as some of our roof that had been blown off right above our heads in that little bathroom and landed down in our backyard.

Chimney . .

This is the hole that was left in our roof where our chimney used to be!

Fence

This is our fence that was blown completely down.

Church

Just down the road from us was a church that had the entire brick wall on the side of the church blown away.

Tornado2

Also down the road you can see that this very large (and heavy!) telephone tower was blown completely down.

So as you can see, we were pretty shaken by this experience! For those of you who were wondering why I watch the weather so obsessively now, this is why! If there is a storm, I am on it. I know when it is coming and where, at all times. I am not kidding! Like I said, some fears can be irrational, and others can be a good thing. I think my fear of storms can go both ways. Because I have a fear of storms, I am on guard at all times. It can be a bad thing in the sense that it can really shake me and cause me to worry way too much… but it can also be a good thing because it keeps me on guard which then keeps me and my family as safe as possible.

So what does this have to do with birth? Women fear birth. Plain and simple. My job as a childbirth educator, is to help women overcome those fears. Through the course of my 10 week Birth Boot Camp class, I teach my students that there are so many variations of “normal” in birth. Let’s face it, in the media, we only see one kind of birth: sheer terror. I mean really, it isn’t good TV to watch a peaceful water birth, now is it? Is fear of birth rational? Maybe, maybe not. I highly recommend watching Ricki Lake’s documentary, “Business of Being Born” to learn more about the history of birth and how birth has changed over the years. When medicine first came on the scene, women were still led to believe that they should fear childbirth and the pain that came with it because of the curse of Eve. Women began giving birth in the hospital with a Doctor because it was the “fashionable” thing to do and wanted every drug available so they wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of childbirth. I love seeing the reactions of my students when I show them birth videos where the woman is not screaming in sheer terror, and just very peacefully and quietly births her baby. It does happen! Birth can be a beautiful process.

I’m sure you have heard the saying before, “Trust your body, trust birth.” Do I believe this? Absolutely. Do I think this can sometimes give a false hope? Yes, sometimes. What happens if something does go wrong? What will that woman who was told to trust her body think? She might think she really is broken. We are not broken! More than half of the c-sections performed today are not a medical emergency! Sometimes things do go wrong though, things out of our control. That is why I think it is good to have a healthy fear of birth.

How do you have a healthy fear of birth? Get educated, plain and simple! This is why I became a childbirth educator. I wanted to help women educate themselves about birth, so they can have a healthy fear of birth instead of the kind of fear that society tries to instill in us, through shows on TV that portray birth as sheer terror or a medical emergency. There are times when things happen, out of our control, when things do go wrong. This should happen less than 10% of all births though! It shouldn’t be the “normal” way to give birth. What does my fear of tornadoes do for me? It helps me to be prepared! I am prepared for any storm to come my way. With a good solid childbirth education class, you can also be prepared for birth. Nothing should surprise you!   My desire is for women to get educated and start taking birth back to a normal state. Let’s not let fear overtake us.

 

Why natural birth?

I was on a Facebook page the other day and a woman remarked, “I just don’t understand why any woman would choose natural childbirth anyway.” Of course it bothered me that she would make such a statement, but I realized that at one time, I was that woman. I’m sure many of my friends are wondering what is up with my sudden interest in natural childbirth. We hear these statements all the time from people who just don’t understand why anyone would want to go through pain if they don’t have to. With advancement in medicine these days, it may seem “old fashioned” or “outdated” to attempt a natural birth. Of course there is my all time favorite statement, “You know, you don’t get a medal for having a natural birth.” And yes, I said that once or twice back in the day. No, maybe you don’t. But a medal is not the benefit I get from natural birth.

When I first started having babies, I was the one who made those statements. I didn’t get why anyone would choose pain over the greatest invention ever, the epidural. Many women choose this route every day, and sometimes it works out just fine for them. Often, it does not. I walked into my first birth blindly. I truly was not educated on childbirth, I didn’t know anything about hospital interventions. I didn’t take the time to carefully choose the right provider. I didn’t even consider a Midwife or an out of hospital birth. I just moved on auto pilot and did exactly what I thought everyone else was doing. Unfortunately, I ended up with three very unnecessary cesareans. I was your typical induction which led to a cascade of other interventions which ultimately led to a cesarean on my first birth. My second birth was a “failed VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.)” I choose to put that in quotes because I was never really given the opportunity to VBAC because again, I was not with the right provider. My third birth was a repeat scheduled c-section because I was told I no longer had a choice in the matter.

After my third surgery and various complications from the surgery, I began to educate myself on birth. A friend of mine had just had a VBAC herself and had delivered without any medication. I was intrigued by her experience and began to learn what it really takes to have a VBAC. In my mind I knew I was not done having children, but was afraid to even consider getting pregnant again because of the three surgeries behind me. When I found out I was pregnant,  I was terrified! A fourth surgery just did not seem like the right option for me. I began to ask around “birth circles” and found that the same name kept coming back to me: I needed to go see Dr. C. Long story short, I met the amazing pro-VBAC Doctor who is quite famous not only in our area but elsewhere as well. Women have driven 6 hours across state lines just to have their VBAC with Dr. C! He is that good. Dr. C. told me that I did have a choice this time. I could have a vaginal birth, and he would do everything he could to help me achieve that. After educating myself and taking all of the necessary steps to achieve my VBAC (of course it wasn’t a sure thing, but I wasn’t going to get to the end and regret not trying everything!) I ended up with the most amazing natural vaginal birth of my daughter Shelby. You can read the whole story here.

If I could bottle up the amazing feeling you get after a natural birth and sell it, I would be a millionaire. I wish all women could experience this! Some women who have had a natural birth have said that it was completely pain free. Others (myself included) say it was painful but so worth the pain. Natural birth is different for every woman, but one thing remains the same: it was worth it. No, I didn’t receive a medal. But I gave birth to my daughter the way I had desired for so many years. Cesareans are necessary for some women. But it is not necessary for 1 out of every 3 women. This high rate is alarming and doesn’t seem to be dropping any time soon. I am not against cesareans that are life-saving. That is what they are meant for! Unfortunately, they are not always used for that reason.

This is why I chose to become a natural childbirth educator. I have a passion to help other women make informed decisions with their first birth. My first class starts in January and I am so excited to begin!

Congratulations on your upcoming birth!

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Welcome to Inspiring Birth! My name is Caryn Westdyk and I am a certified Birth Boot Camp instructor and Birth Boot Camp Doula, teaching childbirth education classes in Haslet, TX and servicing the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton/Decatur area as a Doula. Please look around my blog and contact me with any questions.

Our mission: Birth Boot Camp is committed to training couples in natural birth and breastfeeding through accessible, contemporary education. Birth Boot Camp is for couples, moms AND dads. You’ll learn to work together to bring your baby into this world as a team.

Caryn Westdyk
817-781-5541
cwestdyk@birthbootcamp.com
inspiringbirth.com