Helen's first birthday was today. As I think back to last year, I wonder if the magic of that day could be owed in part to my birth experiences with Charles and Sebastian. If I had never felt the terror I felt when I first lay on an operating table with bright lights shining down, a horrible tugging and pressure down below, tears streaming down my face, would I be grateful for the experience of vaginal birth? I was just looking at the clock and thinking this time last year... (as I have done many times over the last day and a half). Well, at this time last year I was walking down the hall after a lovely shower. But I was walking very gingerly, I was quite sore and it was very uncomfortable to move around. Certainly sitting down was very painful! The pain factor was not unlike a c-section recovery. Of course it lasted much less time than c-section pain and my recovery was very swift. But initially the recovery was difficult. Without two c-sections in my past, I am not sure what I would have thought about a vaginal birth.

BUT that is part of my history, and still I say, the birth was magical. Having Helen at home, with the support of my midwife, my husband, Tom, a birth assistant - it was far superior to any experience I've had in a hospital. I would never have had Helen vaginally at a hospital. They would have sectioned me long before I pushed her out. I don't really wish to relive any part of the labor (nor do I wish to forget it however) but I would love to steal back the first hour after she was born. I will try to do so with words.

After pushing for so long, over five hours, finally her head emerged and stayed out! I looked at my midwife and asked "You can pull her out now, right?" She shook her head and told me I would need to push again to get the shoulders out. I waited for a contraction (I think) and pushed her shoulders out. The rest of her body just slipped out or so it seemed to me. My midwife looked her over and very quickly put her on my tummy. A blanket was put over top of her. I held her close to me and cried tears of joy. Tom had to leave the room to change Sebastian's diaper and Charles was playing in Sebastian's room, working with a tool bench and singing the Bob the Builder theme song (I spent the day in labor; they spent the day watching PBS Sprout and having picnic meals in the living room). Tom came back in time to cut the umbilical cord, it had stopped pulsing by then. Sometime I had also birthed the placenta and that was a piece of cake! I nursed Helen and held her close. After a while, my midwife took her and gave her a sponge bath. She was measured and weighed right on the bed next to me. She was then swaddled up tight in a receiving blanket. Sometime in all this, my midwife had to stitch up my perineum as I had torn pretty badly during the birth (this is probably the cause of much of my after birth pain). Not long after this, my midwife and birth assistant helped me to shower and dress myself in clean clothes. Meanwhile, they had taken turns cleaning up and putting things aright in the birthing room. Some pictures were taken and about four hours or so after Helen's birth, we were left to enjoy our new baby and to savor the afterglow of a homebirth.

It has been a wonderful first year with Helen. Part of the beauty of her birth was the inclusion of my sons in the experience. This is not something I would ever have thought important to me but with my boys in the house and being aware of my labor and being right on hand after Helen's birth, I feel I have given them a gift. A gift of experiencing birth in the way nature intended, this will be their memory and their sister was a part of their lives from the moment of her birth, not hours or days later as a doctor or hospital staff dictated (my oldest did not meet his brother until days after his birth). I may not have birthed them the way I wanted, but THEIR memories of birth will be as I want. I feel the story of their pregnancies and births now intertwine with Helen's to make a beautiful picture that has resolved much of my anguish, possibly all of it, from the earlier births. I feel at peace and often marvel at the magic of it all. Sometimes I feel it is just a wondrous dream, something I have long desired but will never attain. I have to say to myself, it did happen! Just as my midwife always believed.

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