On June 1st 2015 my life was forever changed. After having planned an udmedicated, lowest intervention possible birth for my firstborn child, I had a scheduled cesarean for breech presentation. My c-section was the most raw experience at that point in my life. It was my most vulnerable. Most terrifying. Most anxious. Most exciting. Most beautiful. Most heartbreaking experience of my life. When I was told I would need to schedule a c-section, I thought, “okay this is my worst case scenario - but at least it is not an emergency c-section. All of my birth plans have gone sideways but we can at least plan for a gentle, family centered c-section”. So that we did. Unfortunately, much to my surprise, we there was nothing gentle or family centered about it. Without going into much detail, we did not get skin to skin in the OR, my baby was unnecessarily whisked to the nursery, and kept there hours past the time he stabilized simply because the doctor who needed to discharge him to me was unreachable. To top it off, all of my family got to meet my baby before I did. I was not the first to hold him. I was not the first to gaze into his eyes. It was, for lack of a better word, my worst nightmare. I’d like to take this moment to say I am so lucky and blessed that it wasn’t more dramatic and traumatic. So many mothers have horrifying stories, and there’s always one that’s worse. The important thing here is that we don’t turn birth into a contest of worst experiences, but rather accept that each woman’s experience is unique, and each mother’s feelings about her birth are 100% valid.
After my cesarean my postpartum recovery was extremely difficult for a multitude of reasons. Physical healing, mental and emotional healing, breastfeeding challenges, allergic reactions, inability to utilize pain medication, the list goes on. I struggled with postpartum depression after my cesarean and saw no way out. Thankfully, I eventually came to realize this experience was meant to bring me to an epiphany… this experience was meant to fuel me to find my calling to support other mothers during their birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding experiences. This experience encouraged me to educate men and women, parents and grandparents, society in general. This experience encouraged me to speak up and support and love and appreciate all birth experiences and personal perspectives. Some women have beautiful, empowering births, whether that is cesarean or vaginal, medicated or unmedicated. Some women walk out of birth on cloud 9, happy and fulfilled. Autonomous and heard. Respected. I wanted that. I wanted to help foster that for other women.
Education. Respect. Support. The three things all birthing women need!
On May 24, 2017, almost exactly 2 years post cesarean, my family welcomed our second son via VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean). That VBAC was hard fought and hard earned. It was such an amazing and healing experience. This time I went into birth educated, with amazing communication between myself and my care providers. I worked with amazing midwives who showed me the utmost respect and one amazing OB (the same one who did my cesarean!) who supported me better than I ever expected a doctor could. The only things I remember her saying to me were: *Chanting while I was pushing* “Give me a V! Give me a B. Give me an A. Give me a C! We have a VBAC!” “You did an amazing job” and “One breech baby is a stupid reason to have cesareans the rest of your life”…. And when I apologized to her for being cantankerous during the days leading up to my labor she acknowledged that I was standing up for myself and doing what I felt I had to do to get the birth experience I wanted. Despite my push back to some of her wishes and recommendations, she respected me for standing up for what was best for me. After the glow wore off though, I realized there were still many things about that birth that hurt when I reflected… It hurt that I had to fight so hard. I had great support, but I never should have felt like I was in the fight of my life. I had to cancel appointments, ignore phone calls, and at many points even have my husband step in to stand up for me when I was emotionally frayed and couldn’t take the pressure any more.
[Photo Credit: Jennifer Kaylor, Bella Grace Photography, Sumter, South Carolina]
Although it was my completely autonomous decision because of a long labor, I was administered medications I didn’t want. But reflecting, I can’t help but feel that if other things were in place that wouldn’t have happened. For instance, I was not allowed to eat for the 22ish hours I was in the hospital in labor. I had no energy left after being awake for approximately 40 hours (36 of those hours in labor). I was yelled at by one nurse for using the labor ball in the shower, even though it helped relieve my discomfort better than any other method we tried. I even dilated 2 centimeters during that hour after being stuck at 5 cm for about 6 hours. And lets not even talk about the traumatic IV situation that led to postpartum infection and a needle-phobia I never had before. As amazing as my VBAC was, it was far from perfect. I came to the conclusion that this is just birth. You can’t plan it. All those people were right. I told myself, “Jaimie, you will never have a perfect birth experience. Let it go” Well… then we moved to New Jersey and I knew I did not want another hospital birth and therefore I could not have another baby while we lived in Jersey. But they say, “We make plans, God laughs.” That saying is the THEME of my life as a planner…. May 22, 2018 I had a positive pregnancy test. Baby number three was coming. Like it or not. In New Jersey. I craved a home birth, but because of New Jersey laws, it was illegal for me to have an HBAC (home birth after cesarean) with a licensee midwife present, even though I already had a “proven pelvis”. That pregnancy was such a tough road. The pregnancy itself was my easiest, but the road to a home VBAC in New Jersey was paved with many road blocks. I’ll give you the “short version” but we interviewed many midwives, even across state lines, and eventually settled with an amazing midwife team that had a great reputation, but could only catch in the hospital. Though I was excited for my birth with these amazing midwives in my corner, the thought of birthing in a hospital again was extremely terrifying to me. I cried at almost every appointment because I wanted a home birth.
[Photo Credit: Samantha Schneggenburger, Boundless Birth Services, New Jersey]
They were each so unique. But this home birth man… let me tell you, it healed things I didn’t know needed healing. It added a new depth of love for my husband that I didn’t know could exist. It added a new level of self worth I didn’t know I needed to achieve. I thought I was there. I though I was healed. I knew I could birth vaginally…. But I finally had “it”… I had complete autonomy, felt 100% respected and unhindered. I never felt doubted. When I doubted myself (thanks, transition) my support team believed in me even more. This is why I became a doula. This is why I believe I can offer top notch support to families welcoming their first child or their third (or fourth or sixth or twelfth). I know the value of feeling heard, respected, and simply having someone in your corner to support your decisions whether they are popular or not. Every single woman deserves to have that level of support. Some call us doulas. Some call us birthkeepers. I call us women serving women, women loving women. Finally, I decided, I was having a home birth one way or another. My husband and I prepared for a home birth without the midwives being present. We built a support team of loving friends and family and welcomed our third baby at home with the most beautiful, autonomous, picture perfect, healthy birth you could ever envision. To top it off, after two boys, we had a surprise baby girl! I will make another post telling my full HBAC story soon. But what I can tell you right now is that this was the most amazing of my three birth experiences.If it is important for you t be well informed and have someone support you through any kind of birth experience that can relate to fear, trauma, or triumph, then I encourage you to reach out today. I’d love to hear about your pregnancy, your birth goals, and help you achieve an overwhelming sense of strength and autonomy on the most life changing day of your life. I’m sharing this story to tell you that it is okay to be unhappy with your birth experience. It is okay to work toward something “better”. It is okay to stand up and take risks. I’m not saying you should birth unassisted. That’s not right for everyone or every situation. What I am saying is that it is 100% possible to have a birth experience where you walk away feeling great. Where you walk away feeling autonomous and respected. Because ultimately, that’s what we all want. A healthy baby and a healthy mama that were provided with the opportunity to exercise informed consent and make the decisions that are best for them without coercion or pressure.
If you’re looking for your doula in or around Burlington County New Jersey, schedule a coffee (or tea) doula interview today! I’m buying! Not looking for a doula? Little Bear also provides birth plan consults, breastfeeding education, postpartum breastfeeding support, and maternity, birth, newborn, and postpartum photography. Follow Little Bear on Facebook Now! Little Bear Birth Services Little Bear Photography