(This is long, but this is more for me than anyone. I want to remember everything!)
In honor of Dex turning 6 months old today, I decided to finally share his birth story.
After having a less-than-ideal birth with Cora…refresher: attempted a home birth, my water broke, she was in a bad position, I never started having contractions, and we had a c-section after 3 days of off-and-on labor…I knew I wanted to try for an home birth VBAC (or HBAC) with baby #2. Literally days after seeing those two lines on the pregnancy test, I contacted our midwife, Dawn, and got on her calendar with a due date of March 17th.
I was damned and determined to have this baby at home. By the end of pregnancy it had become like training for a marathon. I took the supplements (I probably took about 20 individual pills throughout the day), I did the Spinning Babies exercises religiously, and I spent a lot of time with my chiropractor. With Cora being a large baby, we decided it wouldn’t hurt to try to bring Dex into the world between 38-40 weeks if possible.
I paid close attention to my posture to avoid bad positioning (y’all, I didn’t recline for three full months). Starting at 37 weeks I walked at least a mile every day, I forced down castor oil not once but twice, I danced, I walked up and down stairs, I did squats, I ate eggplant parmesan, I hooked myself up to the breast pump for two hour intervals multiple times, if I was sitting I was bouncing on a birth ball, I tried acupressure, I tried acupuncture, I ate spicy food, I had my membranes stripped, I tried a foley bulb, I both prayed and cursed the heavens and I’m here to tell you a little secret.. Babies come out when they’re ready. And only when they’re ready. All of those old wives’ tales are bullshit.
I was convinced Dexter was never coming out. My due date came and went, then 41 weeks passed us by. My photographer kept reassuring me that it would happen and both of her babies were born 12 days past their due date. We had an ultrasound the Friday of my 41st week and it appeared Dexter was doing beautifully…I had plenty of fluid, he was in a great position, and my placenta looked perfect. Our ultrasound tech made a bit of a face after doing measurements and said “Oof. Big guy.” The estimation was 10lbs, but she assured us it could go a pound either way and typically with larger babies they’re a pound smaller than their estimation. Cora was 9lbs 11oz so we assumed he would be in the same weight range. (This is where we laugh.)
The Saturday of my 41st week I tried every single trick in the book to induce labor and Easter Sunday saw me with no baby. We met with my midwife on Monday evening and came up with a plan: If Dex hadn’t decided to join us by that coming Thursday or Friday, I would be headed for another c-section. It broke my heart quite a bit, but I was so tired of being HUGELY pregnant and so ready to meet our baby that I was willing to do anything. I would expect a phone call the next day to set things up. Dawn swept my membranes one last time before we left and I went home and starting googling things to pack in a hospital bag for a c-section. I looked at our home birth kit with longing and knew we would once again be packing it up to donate to another home birth family.
I woke up Tuesday morning, 12 days past my due date, feeling crampy and having some awful lower back pain. I chalked it up to the membrane sweep and continued about the morning. At 9am I texted Mark and told him I was going to turn on cartoons for Cora so I could try a hot shower to relieve some pain…twenty minutes later, while taking off my pants to climb in the shower, my water broke.
I called Mark first so he could head home, then I called Dawn, my mom, and our photographer. I’ll always remember standing pantless in the bathroom for half an hour making phone call after phone call while trying to keep Cora out of the room so I could get all the fluid cleaned up before she stepped in it. There. Was. So. Much. Fluid.
Mark arrived home and our doula, Taryn, not too long after. We timed contractions (they were still getting themselves together), checked vitals, and Taryn made me some eggs and fruit for breakfast while Mark took Cora to the babysitter. After Taryn left I remember sitting quietly in our kitchen by myself, and calmly eating my breakfast. I wasn’t anxious or nervous, or honestly even excited. There was an inexplicable peace.
By the time Mark got home contractions were coming on harder and more consistently. Before long I was ready for my birth team: Dawn (midwife), Taryn (doula/assistant), Lauren (doula/assistant), Ashley (photographer), and Mark. Everyone arrived, they set up the birth pool and it was at that moment that I think Mark and I both had our “Holy shit we’re having a home birth” moment.
I labored in the pool the entire time, save for a few trips to the “Dilation Station” (toilet!) per the request of the birth team. The whole day was such a blur. It simultaneously felt like it zoomed by and like it lasted forever. It was far more intense than I ever could have imagined! I remember focusing on my breathing a lot and involuntarily making some of the most animalistic sounds. The whole thing felt like an out of body experience.
At some point during labor, mid-contraction, I felt a huge POP and quite a bit of pain. In the midst of it all I shouted “What WAS that?!” Turns out my son had just fractured my tailbone, which apparently curves inward a bit too much. I would not sit correctly for a solid two weeks afterward. ha! (That pesky tailbone sneaks its way back in the story soon…wait for it…)
Things progressed and before I knew it, it was dark outside and my body was pushing on it’s own. Pretty soon we were able to feel the top of Dex’s head, and pushing lasted about an hour.
After his head came out, I suddenly stopped having contractions. Things became a bit of a whirlwind after that. I was asked to quickly get out of the tub, and within seconds I was laying on our dining room floor while Dawn had to help our big guy out…his shoulder had gotten caught on my tailbone. I couldn’t tell you what I felt at that time because somehow my brain has totally blocked it out. I have no memories of it, but it’s likely for the best. 😉
At 8:10pm, Dawn laid him on my chest and I remember thinking how huge he felt laying on me. It didn’t take long for me to realize he wasn’t alert and he was pretty pale, and the birth team had this sense of urgency about them. Not panic at all, I just noticed them get their “game face” on, if you will. There were hands flying around and times being shouted, and it was at that moment that I realized just how much I trusted these women. I was worried, sure, but I never felt like we were in danger or like we weren’t going to be taken care of. I just laid there and talked him, rubbed his back and held his chubby little hand. I’m still in awe of how quickly and efficiently the team worked together to help Dex take his first breath.
Not long after, he did just that! He let out his first cry and didn’t stop for the first six weeks of his life. 😉
Mark took him to our bedroom for some skin-to-skin while I got cleaned up (and apparently I blacked out at one point, because of course I did), my mom arrived with Cora, and our little family of four got to hang out in our bed for awhile. There was an air of excitement as we got the scale out to weigh our big guy. Dawn asked me to guess and I said somewhere around 9lbs…she laughed and said “Add 2 to that.”
I had somehow, by the grace of god, just birthed an 11lb 5oz, 21.5in long baby boy with a stomach circumference larger than most babies’ heads. (And somehow walked away with just a second degree tear that was stitched up in the comfort of my own home.)
The biggest contrast in Cora’s birth and Dexter’s birth, to me, is the way I felt after my children entered the world. With Cora, I was exhausted, feeling defeated, and even somewhat confused as to what exactly went wrong. With Dex, I remember cracking jokes with my birth team (and cracking up hearing them take selfies with my son while I was in the bathroom), Mark having celebratory tacos on our porch with his best friends, and feeling like I just won a UFC match. (No really, I felt like I had the shit beat out of me.)
I hope, if nothing else, our story proves that proper baby positioning is super important, and that women’s bodies are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we realize! Whatever you think your limits are, your body can go further.
P.S. I hope all my c-section momma friends know that there are options if you want them, and educating yourself goes far. There are more and more providers popping up who encourage VBACs! Every situation is different, but you are likely not stuck with having c-sections forever. ❤
P.P.S. Mark, it’s time to grow your beard out again.
all images ©Births by Ashley Porton