Clara's Birth Story

by Laura B

Laura and I started corresponding before she got pregnant for the second time. She put a phenomenal amount of effort into researching birth options, and the birth process, and was extremely knowledgeable. Laura lives in the USA.

Normally, I am a very wordy person, but for lots of reasons, this recent birth story is hard to put together, in one place. Partly because there is really no way to separate what happened in my first birth (planned birth center birth, with what I now know were "obstetric nurses" not midwives, ahem) when I was risked out at 38 weeks gestation for an expected large baby, who did turn out to be ten pounds, but hey, if you don't know how to handle potential complications like shoulder dystocia -- which I now understand happen almost as often with smaller babies as with larger ones... -- why are you calling yourself a midwife at all? please, don't anyone start telling me about insurance and obstetric oversight boards... while those things are no doubt true, the way the "med"-wives handled the transfer of care to their backup was abysmal, simply abysmal! I had trusted birth, prior to hearing them tell me about the dire, dire risks of shoulder dystocia!

So after a c/s (after a text book twelve hour first labor, no epidural but blasted accursed Demerol (Pethidine) near the end, followed by four hours of pushing, then a trip to surgery) and then after years of research, and work as a labor assistant, and preparation for midwifery school, and attendance at tons of birth conferences and hours and hours spent reading birth stories on email lists and over and over again seeing VBAC plans go awry, at about 37 or 38 weeks, when midwives AND doctors would start harrassing a woman about her baby "looking big" and "I-we-they-don't allow VBACs with big babies... etc etc etc" I knew if I ever tried again, I'd have to find a pretty special midwife for a home birth... which I don't know why I didn't just plan in the first place, with my first birth! Oh what b.s., about a birth center being just like a home birth...

In any case, I did find that special midwife, in the end, some 200 miles away from where I currently live. I told *no one* of my plans, except a very few friends who I knew, being home birthers themselves, would absolutely support me. Starting in my fourth month of pregnancy I traveled to the midwife once a month, by train, for prenatals, until I was 37 weeks, when I temporarily moved to her area for the birth. (I stayed eight days after the birth; I was there a total of five weeks; my son was with me for three of those five weeks, my husband for weekends and the eight days post partum.)

It helped that I used to live in that town, in fact, that town is where I met my dear partner husband, where I once lost a pregnancy very early on, and where I still had a dear friend who agreed to let me hang out and then birth in his home. (I had a feeling I was always meant to give birth in that town, and some fifteen years later, finally did!) I had thought I could will myself into birthing early, alas, I couldn't, (I was in my friend's home exactly a month before I finally gave birth) but it turned out perfectly: my labor began and ended when I was exactly 41 weeks using the "one size fits all" due date system, or four days "post dates" using the system which accounts for length of menstrual cycle.

I know now that those last ten days were crucial to the fast labor and ease in pushing I experienced this time around. My body was finally *finally* really ready to give birth. Looking back, those last ten days, I could truly feel my pubis symphysis spreading, esp. when I walked, but any time I was on my feet, really, and it even felt different, rolling (if you could call it that!) from side to side in bed, those very last days. And I now *know* that it would have been a dreadful mistake to have actively tried to force the birth to have taken place any earlier than it did, tho' I had been admittedly frantic, too many times, from 38 weeks on.

My midwife had suggested I try identifying with some other-than-human mammal for the birth, and I knew immediately which animal that would be for me: caribou. I mentally wrote and practiced my own relaxation visualizations for labor, using caribou and a hiking trip I had gone on, years and years ago, as the visualization's setting. Only later did I realize that caribou, too, travel to special birthing grounds, albeit in spring, and I was traveling for my birth in fall. (edd 26 October 2000, birth was on 3 November 2000) And sadly, just as technology threatens and interferes with normal birth, technology and oil drilling are threatening the caribou's birthing grounds, too... in any case...

Somehow, I had always suspected, known in my bones, that my second birth would be fast, and indeed, it was. Five hours start to finish this time, including one hour of pushing. At one point the surges were so intense, I realized that the gods I don't believe in were probably trying to humble and punish me, for all the times I have ranted against epidurals! I have to say tho', having gotten through those intense, intense sensations, I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I don't even have words to describe the feeling of achievement I felt, and still feel, at having done that, which, intense as it was, now just seems like it was so easy. And as is alluded to in my poem, there were moments in my labor when the visualizations totally totally worked, and I would go from feeling intense sensations to feeling absolutely nothing at all. Truly, it felt like magic. And with no risk of a spinal headache!!!

I really had no idea this baby would turn out to be so big, since I had gained so much less weight this time around, had eaten so well (that is, lots of protein, very little sugar, no fruit juice, no cow's milk after the first trimester) and had no gestational diabetes, which anyway, according to some researchers, doesn't even really exist! (see Henci Goer's Obstetric Myths Research Realities). But even after all that, this baby was ten percent bigger than her ten pound brother.

I now truly know that the reason for my first c/s was a combination of poor presenting position of the baby and the fear instilled in me by care providers who told me a vaginal birth might kill my baby... no wonder I pushed for four hours but he never descended past zero station (the records say he was ROT - Right Occiput Transverse). How could anyone push out a baby when they had been told by the "experts" that to do so might kill the baby? (yes, that was what they told me, a primip, at 38 weeks gestation... that a vaginal birth might kill my baby. It's a wonder I didn't just schedule a section! But I didn't, I did labor, and in the end, had a c/s followed by two days for baby in NICU, for "observation". That was so awful, so hard.

This time around, while pregnant, I had so many doubts, as to whether or not I would indeed be able to have my home VBAC. Maybe I was the one woman in the world who would grow a baby too big to birth? Was I completely out of my mind planning to go to another city, 200 miles away, at 37 weeks pregnant, when I might end up with another section? But once my birthing process (aka labor) in earnest began, it was just too intense and moved too quickly for me to have a single doubt at all.

After it was over, I wondered why I had spent so much time worrying about whether or not I would succeed, when it seemed so obvious, now, that having a baby in a good position (my daughter was Left Occiput Anterior [ideal position] prior to the onset of labor, and stayed that way throughout) or, barring that, being with a midwife who has a few tricks up her sleeve for turning Posterior babies, and is willing to use them, makes all the difference in the world. I had done my work, prior to my labor, in educating myself and finding a care provider I trusted; after the years I had spent doing that (and oh yeah, crying and blaming myself, rather than the society and times we find ourselves living in, for my horrible first birth), stretching and pushing were easy.

And... Sometimes things happen that we don't understand. I have dear friends who seemed better prepared for labor and birth and VBAC than did I, who were not able to VBAC, both at home and otherwise. I realize, deeply, I was blessed with a kind of grace. I wish we all would be. And without wanting to appear flippant or insensitive or unkind or forgetful of my friends who have not experienced the births they planned for and wanted, if there is but one thing I could impart to others planning a home VBAC, it is simply this:

believe. Just believe. Love yourself, deeply, and believe. Believe it will happen. Because it really can. And it will. If not for you, then for one of your sisters. Because when one of us succeeds, truly, we all succeed. We can and we will. I didn't do it alone -- I had a ton of loving support -- and you don't have to, either. And to all those who helped me along the way, my eternal love and thanks. Esp. to Zylphia and Gina and Joyce B. and Joni and Ellen and Rochelle and Nancy and M. and B. and Vanessa and Pam and Leigh, and Connie and Vicki and Lynn and Angela and Dorothy, Susan B. and Rachel R. and on and on and on..... my deepest, sincerest thanks for all your love and support, for all the times you listened and dried my tears, shared my fears, kept the faith, shared your love. I would not have my dear sweet daughter Clara, now, as I do, were it not for all of you.

I wrote the poem, below, about my labor and birth. I know I've left out all the traditional details of a classic birth story (I did spend a lot of time in a tub, and in a modified "polar bear" position atop a mound of pillows on the futon bed I finally birthed on), and I hope all those looking for that kind of story will forgive me, for telling this story, my way, instead.

Big babies and women ripped off by "birth" centers are my deep, deep passions. Please, anyone, anytime, feel free to write me (laurabentz@yahoo.com or lauradoula@yahoo.com) for commiseration, support, ranting, or planning purposes.

Here's my birth story poem, below; my children are Iain, my first born son, and Clara, my second born, 11 pound daughter. (who seemed enormous, at the time I wrote it, tho' now that I know about Leilah's and others' big babies, 11 just seems healthy!!! not really enormous! smiles smiles smiles) My children are five years and one month apart in age, born in 1995 and 2000. respectively. I learned everything I now know, and made some amazing new friends, all as a result of the horrendous birth of a beautiful person, five and a half years ago.

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midwife birth at home

vbac. five hours. intense. ecstatic. enormous baby. (11 pounds!) at home, as planned

five hours. enormous baby. no tears (as in airs, no airs, no tears since there were plenty of ears (including downstairs neighbors...) rhymes with tears tears of joy, mostly

five hours, intact perineum, enormous baby! a girl, clara clear and bright helped out too, by the caribou envisioned...

clarabou's caribou caribou's antlers nudged your mamma along magic antler's took my pain away...

must we drill for oil there? in the caribou's sacred birthing living grounds?

five hours, intact perineum, enormous baby! kinda makes ya' wonder, whether that first c/s really would've been necessary if anyone that time around had really known anything about positioning had really known anything about being with woman

Laura

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