Friday, August 1, 2014

Eden's Birth Story, Part III: Naturally Inducing my VBAC Home Birth

Jadon fell asleep on the way home from the non-stress test at the Dr. W’s office. Jon decided to stay in the car and read until Jadon woke up so that he could get a good nap in that day. While they camped out in the car, I went inside to give castor oil a second chance.

When I tried ingesting castor oil the previous day, I threw it up. I think I had been too full from breakfast when I ate the entire castor oil smoothie in one sitting. So for my second attempt, after a small snack, I prepared the recommended four ounces of castor oil with just two ounces of orange juice.

I gulped it down at 3:15.

Around 4:00, I took my first trip to the toilet. The digestive effects of the castor oil seemed to be working. I was so thankful that the castor oil wasn’t making me feel sick. The next few hours of toilet stops just seemed to be clearing out my system (which I really didn’t mind, hoping that a baby would be the only thing I’d be pushing out in that birth tub later!).

By 4:30, I started experiencing mild contractions. They began just as they had the previous day: five or six minutes apart, about 30-60 seconds long, and very, very easy. I texted Pam, my midwife, with the update, and then decided to lie down and rest. I would need to save my energy if this was the beginning of real labor.

The contractions continued as steady, easy, and unchanging as ever…for hours. When Jon came in with a groggy Jadon, he was thrilled to hear that contractions had started on their own. I texted Alison, my doula, with an update. She was excited to hear about the contractions, too, and hoped that things would really take off so that she could justify pausing her family’s vacation plans. If active labor began soon, she could come to assist me, and even then she’d be running on little sleep the next day en route to California.

Around 6:30, Pam stopped by to see how things were progressing. I was still resting in bed, so she checked to see how dilated I was. She determined that I was about four centimeters dilated. Then, she wanted me to get up and walk around to see if the contractions changed in any way.

Sitting, standing, and pacing seemed to have no effect at all on the intensity or frequency of the contractions. They were so easy and effortless that I showed no outward signs of their occurrence. In fact, Pam and Jon asked me many times if I was still experiencing contractions.

By this time, it was about 8:00 pm. Since things seemed to be going very slowly, Pam decided to leave and let me labor on my own. She said that she would make sure to stay in the area because she believed that contractions could really ramp up at any time. She wanted me to call immediately if my water broke or if my contractions started coming less than three minutes apart.

Alison called me shortly after Pam left. She asked if labor seemed to be picking up. When I told her that there was virtually no change, she admitted that she was at the point of no return regarding her family’s vacation. Her voice choked with emotion as she apologized over and over for not being able to be there. I cried silent tears on the other end of the line, but reassured her that nothing was her fault. After all, no one thought this baby would take so long to come out. She promised that she’d be praying for us all night, as she wouldn’t be able to think of anything else.

After we hung up, I let Alison’s absence sink in. Then, I made another phone call.

“Hello, Maria? It’s Alison… yeah, I tried the castor oil again this afternoon and contractions started up on their own within a couple hours…listen, are you available if I need you later tonight? My friend Alison won’t be able to make it because her family is traveling to a wedding in California…oh, thank you! Things aren’t moving that fast yet. Contractions are actually are totally easy and not changing at all…yeah, I’m willing to try acupuncture again…maybe I will…well, I’ll call if I think I need you. Thank you so much, Maria…yup, I’ll text you my address…Bye.”

Peace washed over me, knowing Maria was willing to assist me with so little advanced notice. She had even offered to do another acupuncture session in order to help things along.

For the next two hours, I paced the apartment, trying to speed contractions up with the movement. I continued to time them, and waited for any sign of change. Occasionally, it felt like they were be getting more intense, but it was hard to tell if my mind was playing tricks on me. Eventually, they started coming about every three minutes, but remained incredibly easy to work through.

Around 11:00, Pam returned. We started filling up the birth tub since you have to empty your water heater several times before the tub is full. I still was waiting for contractions to become “real.”

Then, I decided to call Maria again. Since things were moving so slowly, I wanted to try acupuncture to push my body over the edge.

Maria arrived at our apartment around 1:00 am. After some quick introductions, Maria and I headed into the bedroom to start an acupuncture session. I reclined on my side and propped up several pillows to support myself while she prepared the tiny needles for specific pressure points that would (hopefully!) stimulate my labor.

First, she put two small needles in my hand. Then, she added one to my ear. The next needles were placed into my calves and ankles. Finally, she inserted the last needle on the outside edge of my right pinky toe, a uterine point. Immediately after the needle pricked my toe, I felt a gush of water.

“Uh, Maria…my water just broke!”

“Oh, well that was fast…do you want me to continue?”

“I think you better go tell Pam.”

Before Maria could return with Pam I experienced my next contraction – a real contraction. It took considerable effort to keep myself from tensing up. I knew in that moment that we had crossed a threshold; this baby was really on the way now!

Pam entered the room with a Doppler fetal monitor to check on the baby’s heartbeat. Jon looked on with beaming eyes. I think he understood that things would really be moving now.

My water had broken around 1:30, and we decided to let me lie on the bed with the needles still inserted as long as I could continue to remain still. It grew harder and harder to remain motionless with every passing contraction. Eventually, I called Maria back in to remove the needles; I simply had to get up and walk around.

Within a few minutes, I was pacing in the living room, leaning over the couch as contractions came. They were getting so hard to deal with on my own! Maria was great at jumping in to apply pressure on my hips and give me an encouraging word.

A little later, I decided to try sitting on the exercise ball that Alison had let me borrow. I tried sitting on the ball, bracing myself against the couch for several contractions. Pam, Jon, and Heather, Pam’s newly arrived assistant, looked on while Maria continued to apply pressure on my hips to help with the pain.

“Oh, I just want it to be over! Pam, am I almost done? When is this going to be over?” I sighed after coming out of a difficult contraction.

“Honey, if I knew when a labor would be over, I would be a millionaire,” she gently replied with a smile.

I glanced at the clock. 2:30. How long would I have to continue?

“I need someone to tell me that this is going to be over at 3:30!” I stammered after another contraction.

“Honey,” said Jon, “this will all be over at 3:30.”

“You don’t know that!” I moaned back, irritated that his words couldn’t be true.

Contractions were really getting hard to manage at that point. Pam suggested that I try getting into the birth tub, since many moms say that the water helps them deal with the pain. I debated whether or not to get in. I knew that I wanted to save the tub until I knew labor was approaching the pushing stage. I didn’t want to labor in the tub for hours and hours.

However, after the next contraction, I announced that I was getting in the tub. These contractions were horrible. It was 2:50.

As I slipped into the warm water in the birth tub, I felt my body relax. The water felt so good. However, that sense of tension release left as soon as the next contraction came on. I don’t know what I expected the water to do to the intensity of the contractions, but it didn’t seem to do anything!

The water was great for moving around, though; the new sensation of weightlessness allowed me to try several different laboring positions without much effort. I tried a few contractions on my hands and knees. I tried a few more with my legs outstretched and my arms draped over the edge of the tub. At one point, I remember practically doing laps around the perimeter of the birth tub, moaning, “I don’t know what I’m doing! I don’t know what position my body needs!” Pam reassured me that whatever I was doing was exactly what my body needed to get that baby in position for his or her entrance into the world.

Then, I started feeling the urge to push. I found out later that it was 3:10. Had I really only been in the water for twenty minutes before I started pushing?

As a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section) mom, this part of the labor was new to me; it was like I experienced another first labor. I never knew how hard a woman really has to push in order to get a baby out! I was pushing with everything I had. Pam encouraged me to push only when I felt a contraction; it would be like waiting to catch a wave as you are swimming back to shore. But it was actually hard to tell when I was feeling a contraction! How could a contraction, so unmistakably unbearable just minutes before, now be so hard to discern?

At this point, time seemed to disappear for me. I continued to ask when this would all be over, although I was speaking to God more than anyone in the room. Everyone else knew that I was near the end, but I felt like the pushing and waiting would never end.

Somehow, I had enough mental capacity to remember something I had read in several birth stories. Some women instinctually reach down to feel for their baby’s head during labor. Upon feeling it, they often report getting a surge of energy, knowing that their labor is not in vain. I remember consciously thinking, I am getting discouraged…maybe I should to reach for the head to get the boost that I need.

“Pam, can I reach for the head?”

“Absolutely. See if you can feel your baby.”

I reached my hand down and felt a head! Not only did I feel the head, but I felt hair. I was shocked to feel hair; it actually distracted me for a bit. I had assumed that Baby #2 would be as bald as Jadon.

I continued to push, but now I kept my fingertips on the baby’s head. I was practically addicted to the touch of my little one; it really did give me the encouragement I needed. Looking back, it was an incredible experience to actually feel the baby slowly descend the birth canal with every effort I gave.

At one point, as I stopped pushing, I felt the baby retreat up the birth canal quite a bit.

“The baby went backwards!” I lamented.

“Two steps forward, and one step back, Alison. Two steps forward, and one step back,” reassured Pam.

After just a few more contractions, I felt the head emerge. I paused, following Pam’s guidance. She positioned Jon’s hands to catch the baby. With the next push, the baby slipped into my husband’s hands. Pam told him to keep the baby under the water while she freed a tiny foot from an umbilical cord tangle. The baby was under the water for a total of about ten seconds. As long as the water is warmer than the mother’s body temperature, the baby will not experience the reflex to take a breath.

Then Pam helped guide Jon’s hands to hand the baby to me. A few seconds after lifting the head above the water line, the baby let out a cry.

I realized that no one had checked the baby’s sex yet. With my baby draped across my chest, I lifted one of the legs to discover that we had a daughter.

“It’s a girl!” I announced. “Hello, Eden! It’s your mama!”

“Look at all that hair,” Jon remarked. I smiled to myself, knowing that I discovered the hair before anyone else.

Our little girl arrived at 3:34, ironically close to the 3:30 cut-off time I had demanded earlier in my labor. Jon and I gazed at our amazing creation while Pam, Heather, and Maria got to work preparing the bed, towels, sterilizing equipment, and more. I found myself muttering phrases like, “She’s finally here,” and “I can’t believe it’s finished,” over and over again.

The aftermath of our home birth was a welcome change from our hospital stay after Jadon’s c-section. I was immediately offered food and drink from my own kitchen. I rested in my own bed, wrapped in my own soft towels and blankets. My toddler was still asleep, just a room away, unaware that he was now a big brother. Best of all, I knew that I would soon be able to sleep without hourly interruptions from hospital staff performing required checkups throughout the night.

As I reflect on Eden’s birth, I can clearly see God’s provision for all the little details. I’m grateful that the castor oil actually worked without making me sick so that I could avoid a hospital induction. I’m amazed at His plan in having Maria be present in Alison’s place; I credit her acupuncture expertise for pushing my body into active labor! I’m relieved that the labor happened overnight so that we didn’t have to send Jadon away with friends or family; I liked knowing that he was safe and nearby. I am thrilled that God granted me a successful home birth VBAC with no complications or scary surprises. Above all, I’m smitten with my darling little girl, whom I have the privilege to raise and cherish in the years to come. 


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story :)

  2. Loved reading your story! With Pam, I thought the birth tub would take all my pain away. I was horribly disappointed, too. Congratulations!