I met Sam and Jon in their home, shortly after they found out they were pregnant. Sam had done her research during their time trying to conceive and knew she wanted to have a vaginal birth, after her cesarean with her fist son, Killian, 3 years prior.
The energy from both of them was palpable. They had been traumatized during the birth experience. As they told me the story, there were times where one of them would well up and apologize for their emotions. They had, very unfortunately, been part of the type of birth that people read about and fear on the internet.
They had been given many passive reasons to have an induction, she was measuring big, there was a snowstorm coming, maybe gestational diabetes and of course the, "you will get to meet your baby", which pulls at the heartstrings of any mother in her last month of pregnancy.
The midwife had left for 12 hours during the induction to feed her dogs. They both talked about feeling scared, not having anything explained to them, and being left for hours to manage it on their own.
Killian was born via cesarean section, the day before Thanksgiving, at 5:06pm, she was fully dilated and had begun pushing. Her files say it was due to failure to progress. She had pushed for less than 30 minutes.
After I left their house, Jon called me. He said, "We can't afford you, but you're who we need." I worked out a reduced rate and a small weekly payment plan for them.
The pregnancy couldn't have gone any better health wise. Everything was perfect from a physical standpoint, but there were lots of mental hurdles to get through. As a doula who has attended a lot of VBAC's the most common fears for someone choosing to have a VBAC, is that the baby isn't moving or that a dull pain, is the start of uterine eruption. Sam and I would talk through it every time and make determinations by using evidence based information.
Sam's practice was very respectful of her choice to VBAC, and not just tolerant but supportive. She clearly communicated her anxieties about being pressured. They didn't schedule an induction, nor did they ever discuss a repeat cesarean date.
Eventually, Sam's body started to make change. She was past her due date, and having true prodromal labor. We would talk it through, I would make suggestions, and she would press on. Eventually, her practice discussed an induction. Her bishop score was AMAZING.
All of her prodromal labor had setup her body and her baby for what I believed would be a very easy induction. Sam had fear. She felt like this was starting the same way as her first birth. I stayed positive, we talked about ways for her to stay positive and how to get her rest the night before the induction. Jon called me that evening wondering if they should head in now because Sam had began to contract. Sam had been doing this nightly for 3 days. She needed to sleep tonight. I urged them to stay home and take benadryl to help them sleep. They both got rest, before waking up early the next morning.
I met Sam and Jon at the hospital at 8am, before the start of the induction. I once again reassured her, but more importantly wanted to prepare her for what would come next.
Sam was starting this induction, contracting on her own every 12 minutes, 4cm dilated, and 70% effaced with baby at +1 station. We discussed what a precipitous induction would feel like, how difficult it could be to cope with having your mind behind your body, and we discussed what pain meds were available. Sam didn't believe me that this was going to go quickly. It wasn't because she didn't trust me, it was because of the triggers this scenario was bringing on. It coudln't be different for her, until it was.
At 9:05am they started her on a pitocin. She had opted for that, rather than having her water broken, due to previous experience.
We sat around chatting for 90 minutes or so, and then I watched her have to breathe through a contraction for the first time. At 11:02am I noted "labor" in the birth notes that I keep for families to share later on. Often times we forget what time things happen, and I find this is super helpful in filling in the gaps for new parents.
At 11:25am, her contractions were coming 3 minutes apart. At 12:10pm she wanted counter pressure through every contraction.
At 12:15pm she began to throw up. She decided to try nitrous.
At 1:10pm she began to moan with each contraction.
At 1:50pm she felt like she had to push, and the midwife, checked her cervix. She had a small cervical lip on the top. I explained that she was 9 and 3/4 (It was the first time a Dad, ever got my super nerdy Harry Potter reference) and that she was almost there. Sam said, "No shit?!". I didn't laugh at that moment, but it was pretty hysterical.
Normally, I would change the position of a laboring person to help apply pressure to the cervix using the babies head in hopes that it would melt away, but every time that Sam flipped over, her little one, would have decels.
Instead, I would have to help Sam resist the urge to push. For anyone who has had a baby unmedicated, they all just squeezed their legs together. This is NOT an easy task. Sam and I were eye to eye, as I talked her through her breaths for every contraction. She did a great job of holding off, until right at the end where she would bear down just a smidge. We did this for about 15 minutes but it felt like an hour.
Jon had done a really amazing job of supporting Sam through the entire experience, but now you could feel the stress pouring off of him.
The next time, as Sam breathed through, she made a loud "Ahh!" and her face shifted to one of a bit of panic instead of focus. It was the first and only time she looked that way during the labor. "Your baby is almost here", I whispered to Sam as she looked down. Her baby was right there and she knew it.
On her very next contraction, she pushed, and the top of her daughters head emerged. She was so calm. I've never seen someone so peaceful and focused during crowning. She was a warrior.
With the next push, we saw Rowan's face for the first time, and on the following push, Rowan Bernadette was earth side at 2:04pm. She was perfect with a 9 APGAR, weighing in at a petite 6lbs 9oz.
Sam couldn't believe it. Jon couldn't believe it. And of course, I cried. Watching someone who had such anxiety going in, stay so calm and focused, rock the heck out of one intense labor, with such ease and grace was absolutely awe inspiring.
As Rowan cried for the first time so did Sam, she looked right at me and I told her how proud of her I was. The always amazing midwife, Jen Loomer, yelled "You did it! VBAC city!"
There wasn't one person in that room that doubted Sam's ability. She later kept saying how different it was to feel fully supported by everyone that was part of her team. I wish that all birthing people, could feel the same exact way.
Jon looked at me and said, "I don't know if this is a compliment or offensive, but you're the best money we ever spent". It was certainly a compliment. It was an absolute honor to support them, in the way they deserved to be, during the last 8 months and through the birth of their beautiful little girl.
This birth was a healing one for Sam, but situations like her first birth, shouldn't happen in the first place.
Fact: Around the holidays in the U.S., the number of labor inductions soar. Undoubtedly, the rise in inductions are not due to necessity, but quite often because of pressure from a provider or related to what is “convenient” for them and their schedule. Get the facts so that you can make informed decisions about your body and your baby. Letting labor begin on its own is usually safest for moms and babies. You should not feel pressured to induce without medical necessity.