My first child was born by cesarean in 2003. It was unexpected but not an emergency, and I was determined to have a VBAC for my next child. I realized that my passive approach to birth the first time was partly responsible for the outcome - I put a lot of trust in my doctor and the medical model of care without understanding my own needs at birth. This time, I took a more active role in my pregnancy and looked at all my options for birthing. After much soul searching and research, we planned for a home birth with a midwife. I continued to see an OB for my medical needs, and also in case the birth required transfer to a hospital. The OB had set a due date of November 27th, but the midwife and I felt that December 2nd was more likely, based on my menstrual charting.

After Thanksgiving dinner, I remember feeling crabby and wondering if I was having contractions. I think I was just tired of being pregnant. But for the next few evenings, I had mild contractions for a few hours after dinner - we even called the midwife and doula on Saturday night, thinking that it might be time.

On Sunday, I cleaned out the storage room in our house, unpacking the boxes that were never opened after our move a year ago and sorting out things to get rid of. It was exhausting, but I was determined to get my labor going. I paid for it all day Monday, but on Tuesday, I had contractions all day long. It was a cold, rainy, gloomy day. The contractions were mild but consistent, and I hoped that I would have the baby soon.

In the evening, we timed the contractions, and they were about 5 minutes apart. Still, I could walk and talk through them, so I wasn't sure if it was the real thing. I called the midwife, and she felt things were moving enough to call in her assistant, who was a 2-hour drive away. The contractions died down when I went to sleep, but I woke up around 2am with more. I went into the kitchen and started folding origami cranes - something from my early labor "to do" list. It didn't take much energy, but distracted my attention and kept my hands busy. My husband woke up a little while later, and we went for a walk. It was about 4 am, and our neighborhood was quiet and peaceful. I was still able to walk while having the contractions, so we went back to bed. The contractions went away, and I woke up the next morning tired and disappointed.

We had an appointment with the midwife that afternoon, and discovered I was about 75% effaced and maybe a centimeter or two dilated. So, at least there was progress, with all this prodromal labor.

On Friday, December 2nd, I lay down to take a nap, and woke up at 1:30 with a very strong contraction. It was much more intense than the contractions from earlier in the week, and I felt certain that this was going to be it. I called my husband, and tried to rest some more. Every twenty minutes or so, I would feel a contraction and look at the clock. It was definitely getting more intense, and the time was passing quickly.

He called our birthing team when he got home around 3. The contractions were ten minutes apart. He sat down on the bed with a notepad to start timing the contractions. When he tore off a sheet of paper, wadded it into a ball, and threw it in the trash, it was the loudest, most annoying sound I had ever heard. And when he sat down, it was like an earthquake on the bed. I snapped at him and we both knew I must really be in labor!

My water broke around 4:30, before our birthing team had arrived. It was upsetting for me because my water had broken early during my last birth, before contractions had really started. I was so afraid that this birth wouldn't happen naturally. My husband looked me right in the eyes and calmly said it was nothing like last time - I was already in labor, we weren't going to the hospital, and everything was going to be fine. He was comforting in just the right way, and we got back to work.

I moved from the bed, to a chair, to the yoga ball, focusing on each contraction and making lots of different kinds of noises. The birthing team arrived by 5:30 or 6. Around 7, I felt the urge to push. After a little bit of pushing, the midwife checked to make sure I was completely dilated, and I was. I remember asking if I was going through transition. The birthing team smiled and laughed - I was way past transition now. I think because my last labor had stalled out at 7 cm, I wasn't sure I would make it this far, and I certainly couldn't imagine what it would feel like.

I spent some time pushing on the birthing stool, and the baby was still pretty high. The midwife had me lie down on my back while she pushed my ischial spines open to help get the baby down. It was a lot of hard work, and it took me a while to get the hang of it. After a while, she recommended I go to the bathroom to empty my bladder to see if we could get some stronger pushes. I sat on the toilet through several contractions, but I just couldn't go. So she used a catheter to empty my bladder and we moved on to more pushing.

It seemed to go on forever. I remember the encouragement from everyone there, and began to push for all I was worth. In the beginning, I would give two pushes for each contraction - by the end, I remember pushing 5 or 6 times in a row. My husband discovered a new shade of red, as my face, neck, and upper body turned crimson with the effort.

Just before 10pm, the baby started crowning. With the help of a mirror, I was able to see our baby's head, and felt that we were in the home stretch (quite literally). The baby came out very slowly - big head with lots of hair - and we all watched with amazement. My mom had put my older son to bed, and she joined us to see the birth. It was tremendous to have such a circle of support.

Finally, the baby's head was out, and the midwife told me to push with everything I had. The baby�s shoulders were stuck (shoulder dystocia), and we needed to get him out quickly. I pushed with everything I had, and he didn't move. She gave me one more try, and the baby's head started turning blue. Suddenly, I was flipped from my back to my hands and knees - the Gaskin maneuver - and I pushed again. Still, he didn't come out. The midwife reached inside, shifted his shoulders, and pulled out an arm. The baby came tumbling out, into my husband's hands.

Jonas was born! It was exciting and overwhelming - and throughout it all, the birthing team remained calm and collected. I heard the midwife and her assistant rapidly discussing their options to resolve the shoulder dystocia, but their attitude didn't cause me to worry at the time.

Lying in my own bed, I was able to hold my newborn son in the first minutes of his life. He began to breathe and cry, still attached to his umbilical cord. It was amazing and healing to have a natural birth. The work of pushing was gone from my mind, as I became captivated by the new life in my arms. My husband cut the umbilical cord, and we reveled in our new baby.

Recovery was faster than with my first, I had only a small tear. My body was tired from the pushing, I was swollen, and it took some time for my bladder to recover from the shock of birth. But the rush from delivering at home, conquering my fears, and succeeding at something we had worked so hard for was truly exhilarating.

About ICAN

The International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc. (ICAN) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by reducing preventable cesareans through education, supporting cesarean recovery, and advocating for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Learn More About ICAN