I had an awful experience with the birth of my first son in 2008. The same old OB routine that is so common it’s disturbing: not dilating and progressing as they want you to; being pressured into epidural and pitocin; pitocin affects the baby’s heart rate dramatically and boom, you’re in the OR having an emergency c-section. I had adverse affects from the epidural (spinal headaches) and the c-section and I was in the hospital for 6 days. My son was in the NICU with breathing issues for 2 weeks after birth. It was a very traumatic experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Gosh, if only I knew then what I know now.
After doing a lot of research, I was bound and determined to have a VBAC and a natural birthing experience this time around. We had decided that we would most likely not have any more children after 2, so this was my only chance at having the best possible birth experience and I was so determined to make that happen, for me, but more importantly, for my baby. This go around, I did not want an OB. I wanted a midwife. Upon moving to Tennessee, I found the Vanderbilt Midwives. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. They were wonderful. I was treated like a real person with real choices. Birth is a natural process and they did not try to skew me from thinking otherwise.
After I got hooked up with the Midwives, I got the best advice from my sister-in-law that I could have ever been given. She told me to look into hiring a doula. I was really wanting a natural birth but was extremely scared at the same time. I had a lot of doubt. I wasn’t sure I had the strength to do it and to be totally honest, I had never truly come to terms or dealt with the traumatic birth of my first son. So, I took this piece of advice from my sister-in-law and looked into hiring a doula.
I found Heidi and immediately after meeting her, knew I had to have her with me during the birth of our second son. I felt an incredible amount of support and strength after just meeting with her once. It was THE best decision I could have made. My labor started on August 12th around 10:00 PM. I woke up with some cramping that wasn’t going away. I was unable to sleep through the cramps. They started out about 15 min apart and got progressively closer together. I had gradually been losing my mucus plug for a few days prior to this, so I knew the time was near and had been anxiously awaiting. I called Heidi about 1:00 AM. She told me to keep her posted. I called the Midwife on call at about 3:00 AM. She told me to head to the hospital when my contractions get about 4 min apart. My contractions were getting progressively stronger but still were about 6 min apart.
I stayed up all night just swaying my hips during contractions while leaning over my birthing ball. I walked around in between or laid down. I called the midwife back at about 7:00 AM. My contractions were still about 6 min apart and at times were somewhat sporadic. Soheyl Asadaganabi was on call at that time and she wasn’t convinced I was having true labor and I wasn’t sure either (I feel I never experienced true labor with my first son with all the interventions). Soheyl told me I could come to the hospital and get checked out just to be sure and could go back home if I wasn’t dilated at least 4 cm. So, we decided to do just that. I think my instincts told me we needed to go the hospital. I showered while waiting on the babysitter to show up and we left for the hospital at about 8:00 AM.
We got to the hospital around 8:30 or so. I even had my husband park in the garage because I thought the walking would be good for me. I had to stop a couple of times on that walk to the 4th floor and hold on to my husband and the wall while experiencing what I now know were definite contractions. We got checked into labor and delivery and were sent to one of the triage rooms. Soheyl came and examined me at about 9:00 AM and low and behold, I was dilated 7 cm!!! What a relief that was to hear! I started crying! I was so excited to meet my baby soon and I was so proud of myself for laboring that long (10 hours) at home! The contractions were getting more intense, but at this point, were still very tolerable. I continued to sway through each one while standing, leaning on the bed. We called Heidi and she was on her way to the hospital. But, I had no idea what was to come! I think I thought my baby would be here in no time, but I had no clue the work that was ahead of me.
I was moved to an actual labor and delivery room. Because I was attempting a VBAC, I had to wear the monitor, which I have to admit was a bit annoying. Heidi got to the hospital and immediately started praising me and then started to inquire how I was feeling and got updated from the nurses. The next two checks I had though, I was still only dilated at 7 cm and by this time, the contractions were much more intense and increasingly painful. Not to mention, closer together and lasting longer! I was getting frustrated and didn’t quite understand why I was not dilating more! Heidi helped me into different positions until I found what seemed to work best. I was on my knees on the bed holding onto the birthing bar. I swayed and moaned through every contraction and then tried to rest my head in between. I never thought I would be “loud” while in labor, but the moaning seemed to help me through each contraction. Heidi and my husband put pressure on my back during each contraction. I had some intense back pain with my contractions I’m not sure I could have tolerated without that pressure on my back. It helped immensely.
I am not sure what time it was, but I felt the urge to push and I made it known! Right then, my water violently burst during a contraction. The bed was soaked, my gown was soaked, and I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure my husband and Heidi got a little wet too! And things only got more intense from here, when transition phase really began! Soheyl checked me again and I was 9 cm. A few more contractions and I made it known again that I felt the urge to push. Soheyl came back, checked me and I was 10 cm and ready to push!! I started pushing shortly thereafter. Again, I thought a couple of pushes and my baby would be here….I kept thinking to myself, It’s almost over, he’s almost here! But, I pushed for almost 2 hours, which seemed like 20 hours in my world. My plan was to push while standing and squatting. I tried to do this, but I had no strength left in my legs to stand.
Heidi and the nurse assisted me in trying different positions to push. To be honest, no position felt comfortable or right. It felt so wrong and uncomfortable to be on my back pushing but I think because of how exhausted I was, and not having the ability to stand, that’s just the way I ended up. I’m not sure I could have even been on my knees in bed at that point. So, with Heidi holding one leg and my husband holding the other, I pushed through each contraction with all of my might. I will mention as well, that pushing did not come naturally. It took me several tries to even figure out how I was supposed to be pushing! I believe I had a cervical lip, which made pushing even more uncomfortable. But, at some point, they could see my baby boy’s head.
Shortly thereafter, his head was delivered but something was terribly wrong. I don’t remember exactly what was said, I just know that several other doctors and nurses rushed in to assist with the delivery and it was made known that it was emergency situation and they needed to get this baby out as soon as possible. A doctor or nurse, I don’t remember, pushed on my stomach very, very hard and Soheyl screamed at me to push as hard as I could. My baby came shooting out and they immediately took him, as he did not start crying right away. A few seconds later, which seemed like eternity to me, I heard my baby cry. My husband had hit the floor, almost passing out. This was a very scary and intense few moments. Ends up, our baby had a bilateral shoulder dystocia, which is very, very rare. His shoulders were lodged in my pelvic bones and he was not budging after his head was delivered, which is why it became an emergency situation. If a baby isn’t delivered quick enough and the baby goes without oxygen, a baby can have brain damage. But, everyone acted quickly enough and got him out. As a result, I suffered 1st degree and 4th degree lacerations. I did not feel myself tearing though. The repair of the tear was so much worse than when my baby came out. I know God was with me and my baby and after enduring so much, He allowed me to not feel the pain at the very end.
Carter Jacob Pherson was born at 3:32 PM on 08/13/11, weighing in at 8 lbs, 12 oz, 21 in. long. Everyone in the delivery was joking afterward, saying Carter was going to be a football player…being as big as he was with broad shoulders! A surgical team had to repair my 4th degree laceration. I did receive nitrous oxide during this procedure, as my body was shaking uncontrollably and I was still very, very worried about my baby even though I had been told he was fine. The nitrous allowed me to calm down so they could repair my tear. Did I mention that I went through all of this with NO DRUGS! My goal was a natural VBAC and I did it. I may have suffered a very severe tear, but it was well worth it! My baby was healthy and so was I! I have to admit, I am very, very proud of myself!
I may have downplayed Heidi’s involvement in my recollection of my birthing experience. However, Heidi played a huge, pivotal role in my natural VBAC! She was an angel sent to us….my husband will attest to the fact that we could not have done it without her. She told my husband everything to do and without them both, it would not have been the same outcome. She not only assisted me with positioning during contractions, she put pressure on my back for pain relief, but also used aromatherapy, assessed my needs periodically, advocated for me, and provided ongoing encouragement and relentless support. Even after the baby was born and my husband was attending to the baby while I had my lacerations repaired; Heidi was there holding my hand talking me through everything that had happened and was happening. She reassured me everything was ok and my baby was ok. It takes a special person to do what she does and she is darn good at it. We are so very thankful for Heidi Duncan!