Grant's Birth Story
By Regan Schiestel
|Photo courtesy of J Allison Andrews Photography|
The story of Grant’s birth begins with the story of his sisters’ birth. They were my first pregnancy -- and a spontaneous identical twin pregnancy at that! In the same breath that I was told I had two heartbeats at their first prenatal appointment, my doctor also said she did not deliver multiples vaginally. I had been seeing her for 10 years, and I trusted her. While I was relieved that I would not have to feel pain during a trial of labor, I knew right away my next pregnancy would be a VBAC. My twin pregnancy continued as a textbook, healthy pregnancy, and I coasted through it with no worry of planning a vaginal birth at the time. The doctors would handle everything.
Fast forward 18 months later, when we conceived another baby. Just one, this time! We were excited and wanted to have a different birth experience. At the time, we just wanted to deliver vaginally, with an epidural, in the hospital. It was important to me not to have to have surgery again due to all the risks and costs that involved. Plus, with twin toddlers running my life, I could not lay low recovering longer than necessary. The doctor who delivered my twins retired, so I found another doctor. The first question I asked my new doctor was if she did VBAC births. She said yes, but that she would not induce me. I asked no further questions. It sounded good to me.
During my last trimester, I was so busy at home. The pregnancy flew by, and I realized six weeks before my due date that it might be a good idea to take a Lamaze class. I almost did not sign up. I would have to hassle with getting a sitter, and I really wondered what I would possibly learn there that I could not read about online or by talking with friends. But, my husband and I reluctantly went, more so just to continue the baby fun and excitement.
I am extremely glad we did. That first class was a huge turning point for us, and it changed my entire perspective about birthing. My husband and I left the class amazed at how labor pain could be managed and how the many drugs and interventions in the hospital could interrupt the body’s natural flow to give birth successfully, therefore leading down the path to another C-section. We thought for the very first time that we would consider having a non-medicated vaginal birth. After the last class, I thanked the instructor and told her how much we learned and told her we would now like to try a natural birth. She was a former doula and highly recommended we seek out someone who could assist my husband during labor.
So, the search for a doula was on! I was a month away and now with this new change in my birth plan, I was eager to read all the birthing books, watch videos, and absolutely grill my girlfriends about how bad the pain was for them.
Well, I found the perfect doula for me. She was someone I could be friends with. We talked for an hour during our interview and I hired her over the phone. During our prenatal visits, she really encouraged me to push my doctor with further questions about VBACs. Apparently doctors and hospitals think a VBAC is a big deal, so they are not as supportive as they should be. I never heard such a thing, so I invited my doula to meet my doctor at my 38 week appointment. During that check-up, my doula heard the doctor say a couple of things that made her nervous. She informed me that the doctor’s suggestion to sweep my membranes was not a good idea and told me why. She also heard the doctor tell me that she would not “let me go past 41 weeks without a C-section” – and that caught my attention.
When my doula came to my house the next day to work with me on positioning, we started talking about what I would do if I did go past my due date, or even past 41 weeks, as that is common as well. I said I would fight the doctor on the issue. I would argue with the hospital. I would stand my ground to not have any interventions and they have to deliver me naturally. She looked at me sympathetically. Then said something to the effect, that while it is wonderful that I am a strong, smart woman, but that when you are in pain and desperate, you will not fight. You will not have it in you to buck the system and be that trailblazer you want to be. In your pain, you will agree to whatever they suggest, the drugs, the C-section, etc. I thought about it for a minute, realizing that she was right. Then I asked her what I should do. She said I could get another doctor who runs a VBAC-only practice, go to a birthing center, or get a midwife and have the baby at home….
So, at 39 ½ weeks, I was looking for a midwife.
I started calling the referrals I received from my doula. One referral led me to Jenee. And I am so glad! She was the perfect midwife for me. She was beautiful and professional, yet friendly and down to earth. She was available and most importantly, very understanding that a VBAC was important to me. She also had twin girls, so we bonded over that as well. It was a Tuesday evening that I initially met Jenee and toured the birth center. The drive to her office was a bit far, and I was in rush hour traffic with my toddler twins. One got sick on the way, so we had to stop and clean her up. When we showed up, one of my girls was only wearing her diaper and shoes. Jenee understood and we liked her immediately. She gave us confidence that we could do a natural birth out of the hospital. But, we did not make any decisions that night. We thought we would have a few days to think about this whole home birth thing.
Well, what do you know? My water broke 12 hours later on Wednesday morning! I called Jenee’s cell phone. She took my call at 5:30 AM laughing! She said, “Well, are you going to hire me for your birth?” And, I said, “Yep, let’s do it!”
My husband took the day off work and went shopping for the supplies Jenee told us to have. My doula arrived later that morning. Jenee arrived in the early afternoon. She probably gave me more time than her usual clients since we just met the day before and wanted to get to know my health history. We all sat in my living room and talked between contractions. She encouraged me to eat, drink, and rest. At one point by husband brought in dinner for everyone. We were eating fried chicken and okra and drinking iced tea. Jenee told me to slow down on the fried chicken or I will regret that. We continued to talk through my contractions. I loved her and my doula’s rule of no one talking during my contractions. It was respectful and helped me focus. My twins were at pre-school, then came home and took naps. Otherwise, they were there in the house going about their business as usual. Nothing fazed them. They never heard my labor pains as they were sound asleep during the rough part.
A lot of my hard labor is fuzzy in my memory. I heard about it being called the “fog of labor.” And that is quite true as the pain was so bad and in such a primal way, I do not now remember how it felt. I know it was bad, but it was a working pain. I could feel the baby drop with each contraction. I could feel the need to push. I would not let Jenee check my dilation. I refused due to the pain of laying flat on my back. So, we never knew how many centimeters I was dilated. We just went by how I felt. And she continued to ask where I felt pain and describe its location.
By the time the assistant midwife arrived, I was done walking around the neighborhood and bouncing on the exercise ball. I was fully concentrated and inside myself with eyes closed trying to follow any direction I was given. I was in the hot bath, and then I tried contractions on the toilet, the birthing stool, then on all fours hugging the exercise ball on my bed for a long time. I was given oxygen to help increase the baby’s heart rate. That helped, and I had the mask on from transition through the remainder of labor.
I pushed for 60 to 90 minutes. And just when Jenee thought she would have to do an episiotomy, the assistant midwife suggested having me in the full squat position on the floor leaning against my bed. That did the trick, thankfully, and I did not even tear! The relief I felt was unlike any other. Labor was over, the pain was gone, I was no longer pregnant, and we had an 8 pound 8 ounce baby boy!
After delivering the placenta, which we saved and planted a tree in Grant’s honor, I had an internal exam. Then they ran a warm herbal bath for me and the baby. The personal attention was what made this experience possible for me: my doula with her feet in the bath with me during labor to press against my hips, the coaching they gave my husband so he could support me better, and all the little midwife secrets that helped me with newborn care, comprised the kind of care only a home birth can provide.
When I called my obstetrician to let her know that I had the baby at home, she was shocked. She said when she heard my voice mail message she was worried about me rupturing my incision. I told her that I forgot about that aspect, as I was only concerned with the pain of it all! Staying at home was the only way for me to ensure a VBAC. I know going to the hospital would have ended my story differently. Grant’s birth is my greatest accomplishment.