Avery Jane arrived at 9:45am on Friday, August 12, 2016! I was 39 weeks, 3 days and we are enjoying her so much. I rocked my VBAC with flying colors.
There I was, 39 weeks and 2 days...it feels like an eternity when you’re almost to the finish line and you’re anxiously waiting for your new life as a family of four to begin.
We went to my 39 week appointment and I was 4-5 cm, as per usual for the past couple weeks, same as with Jackson. Apparently my body works well with pregnancy even though I’m not your typically happy pregnant lady. But I love having my babies once they’re born. But the process is so taxing on me! I had sent a recipe to my mom for Labor Inducing Cookies so she invited me over the afternoon to see if they work.
Here is the recipe: https://www.loveinmotion.net/blog/labor-cookies
The instructions were to eat as many as your can stomach, take a nap and wait for labor to start! Seeing as this would be the only time in my life that I would be able to eat as many cookies as I wanted, I. ATE. 11...IN ONE SITTING! They resemble a spicy Christmas cookie and are super delicious. We will definitely be making them this holiday season!
That evening, I took some Evening Primrose oil and waited for labor to commence. Around 9:30pm, I watch a little TV before turning in but something felt different, some cramping that had increased to a more than uncomfortable state. After 30 minutes of deciding that this was real labor, I went upstairs to wake up my husband John and tell him it is time. I called the midwife, who suggested to let her know when I’d like to go to the hospital. Being the indecisive person that I am, I waited for another 15 minutes and called everyone who needed to know that we were headed to the hospital: our doula Sabira Marike, photographer Kayla Raine Armstrong, Rachael, Lois, and Mireya, our neighbor who would watch Jack for us. I threw up the cookies mid-conversation with my photographer, bless her heart. I felt better after that, almost well enough to doubt if I should’ve alerted everyone so soon. But things were already set into motion so we dropped off Jack and headed to Castle Rock Adventist Hospital (best hospital food EVER!).
My doula and birth photographer arrived to the hospital around midnight, once we were all settled into our room. The same midwife I saw this morning for my checkup was there and on board with our birth plan and wishes, which was very comforting. We decided to strip my membranes to see if that would get things moving. Both Rachael and my mom had their phones off but I wasn’t worried. They would arrive in the morning if I didn’t have the baby by then. By about 3am, labor was fizzling out so we decided to sleep a bit, which was nice to get some rest before the main event. This photo below was a little bit of labor that night.
Shifts changed at 7:00am to new nurses and a midwife, a new one I had never met before in the practice. I was nervous because that had happened last time with Jack and everything went south very quickly, because we were not on the same page. However, my midwife Jen Holcomb was aware of what kind of birth experience we wanted and she was very accommodating. She said “Well, since you’re not having contractions anymore, we can technically send you home but since we’re here, let’s have this baby!” We decided to break my water to jump start labor again, so Jen broke my water with a long medical looking crochet hook at 7:30am. John stepped out to grab a breakfast burrito from downstairs and by the time he came back up 20 minutes later, contractions resumed but at a much higher intensity but were still felt bearable. I had been 5cm at my 39 weeks appointment the day before. When they checked me after the water breaking, I was at 6cm. Luckily the breaks between contractions were so merciful.
I took a shower, which was helpful in focusing on anything other than the intensity of contractions. The wireless fetal monitors they required for me to have on at all times (due to trying for a VBAC) was excruciatingly annoying as it lost connection every time I moved a muscle, which meant a nurse would come back into the room less than every 5 minutes when a reading wasn’t detected. It was difficult to get into a labor rhythm with constantly trying to get the stupid monitors to read my baby’s heartbeat.
Once I got out of the shower, contractions got much more intense. Shit got serious! No more laughing or talking in between contractions. These required my entire focus! John and Sabira were so supportive with the atmosphere and anticipating my needs. Music was going, my affirmation notecards taped to the bed, oil mists, colored diffuser running, birth art on the windows, dim lighting, counter-pressure, cold towels on my forehead and neck, guided meditations, and so much encouragement. I moved to a ball on the floor, leaning over the foot of the bed.
Inside, I really didn’t want to have a long labor. Labor was getting very intense, so I asked to play a special song, Fight Song by Rachel Platten. For me, this song makes me cry every single time. This birth was so important to me, a redemption for all the pain and suffering from Jack’s pregnancy and birth (to read that, go here). I wanted to prove to myself that I am more than capable of having an unmedicated vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). The first words of this song brought my into the present moment, seeing the contractions as waves, my baby working hard, my body moving her down. Then the song moves into proving others wrong and mustering up inner strength to complete what I set out to accomplish.
Jack’s birth was so traumatic. The doctors took away my power and everything after that, I lost my voice to stand up for myself and my son. It was a very difficult path as a single mom, fighting for my son and myself. Please listen and tell me you can’t cry!
Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion
Like how a single word can make a heart open
I might only have one match but I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say, wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight, can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song, take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song. My power was turned off
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song and I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.
Needless to say, this song made me wail and weep with emotional grit, pain, and gumption to endure through this last leg of my birth journey. If you have ever gone through a difficult situation, believe me when I say that music can make you break any barrier or struggle. This was the moment in which I realized that the only person who could push me through the struggle of labor WAS ME. Nobody else was going to take the pain away BUT ME.
Following this song, I’m not sure how much time had passed. I merely focused strongly on birth affirmations taped to my bed:
Embrace this moment
Just let go
My body is so much stronger than my fear
Relax, lose control, lose yourself
My baby and I are working together to meet each other
I find my your inner peace and calm
Despite all my training with birthing classes, exercises, breathing, meditation, visualization, nothing prepared me for the moments in which my body took over and forced me to give into the natural urges to embrace the pain, not fight it. It’s a powerful moment to work with your body or avoid it altogether! But I was checked again still at a 6! I was distraught but knew I had to do something different. Instead of just managing contractions for what intensity they were, I realized I could actually bear down a bit with the power I’d been given by each surge to open up my cervix and guide my baby down. For some reason, I didn’t know I could do that, as if these contractions were just something my body was doing to get the baby out. “You mean I can do more than manage the pain?? Ok, I can totally do that.”
I changed positions to lean against John. It was a beautiful swaying dance of resting on his chest in between contractions, then hanging from his neck and burying my face into his sternum.
The intensity was so much that I felt the need to keep moving. I couldn’t stop moving. Nothing felt like it was working. At times, I wanted to escape but I knew there was a baby at the end, even though at times I literally forgot! Who forgets what pain they’re enduring to see an incredible end product of having a baby?!?
I moved to the bed and hung over the top with the head of it raised. I wanted to give up. This was definitely transition, 8-10cm, my tipping point. John and I had a safe word for an epidural: E.T. I so badly wanted to say it. I knew I was so close to meeting my baby. My carnal noises were beginning to be gutteral, primally raunchy. In the moment, it was strange but felt so good to let it out. Grunting felt like I was urging my body to get this over with. For a moment, I remember how painful Jack’s birth was, with back labor, and it reminded me to be grateful for every graceful minute (or less) I had of rest in between contractions. How did I ever do this before with back labor?!
I lost some focus, not managing my breath, not doing non-focused awareness. I was panicking so I asked for a ball. They gave me a peanut ball to straddle in bed. “Relax, Breathe, Feel the Earth, DO NOTHING EXTRA.”
Head in my hands, I worried that this whole natural route might’ve been a big mistake. “Mother Mary taped to me, doula guiding me through relaxation meditations, aromatherapy, stupid hypnobirthing, who am I kidding?! This is stupid. This fucking hurts!!!”
John could sense I had lost my cool, Sabira suggested I lay on my side with the peanut ball in between my legs. I obliged and hoped to distract myself back into confidence that this would be a good outcome. “You were made for this moment, Liz!” my green card on my bed says. “Screw you! This moment sucks!” I yell in my mind.
I flipped to the other side, trying to grasp something, hold onto something to anchor my composure. Sabira and John pounded pressure on my hips. I thought they could do my job for me and squeeze her out that way...Bummer, no good. I sat up, squatting on my knees to find what would do the trick in ending this battle. John held my hand as I regained some sense.
Note the time: 9:27am
At 9:30, the midwife came back in to check me and she said I was a 10! Thank God! Ready to go! Let’s do this! OMG is this happening??? She knew this baby was coming fast. After all, I only labored for almost 4 hours with Jack before I was whisked away to the OR for an emergency cesarean. The light was at the end of the tunnel and it didn’t look like any signs were leading to an operating room, although there still was a legit fear that history might repeat itself.
On my side again, she checked where baby was at. By this time, I heard my mom’s voice. MOM! She finally made it all the way down from Boulder Canyon where she had visited my sister and her family the night before. I thought “Why give your pregnant daughter labor cookies and leave for the mountains, you crazy woman?!?” But my mind was relieved to have my mom be there. She is good at taking care of me, such a good heart. I felt like I needed her just for this moment to give it all I had. Mom put a cool wet cloth on my forehead to cool me off. Thanks mom.
I pushed for a good 10 minutes. As Avery gradually begins to emerge, I hear, “Oh wow, she has so much hair!!” I thought, “What?! Her head is out? OMG I’m doing this! I’m really doing it!! No turning back now. I gotta give absolutely everything I have in me.” John and Sabira both held my legs as I pushed down with all my might. Jen, the midwife, asked “Do you want to feel her head?” I shook my head no. Thinking back, I would have wanted to, just to feel what was truly coming out of me.
They tell you to not squeeze your face muscles but when you have to push with every fiber of your being, you really have to push with EVERY FIBER. I tried not to so I focused my attention on relaxing my eyes, jaw and forehead. I didn’t want another popped blood vessel in my eye like last time. And I remember Ina May Gaskin (midwife goddess) saying in one of her talks that a loose jaw is an open vajayjay, so I did my best. I felt the midwife’s hands push down my perineum so as to make more room and to prevent tearing.
Suddenly, Jen said “Ok, Liz. Give me two really big pushes and you’ll meet your baby, ok? You can do this.” “DEAL!!” I gave the best and biggest 2 fucking badass grunted pushes of my life. The time had come! My baby arrived! I noticed John smiling from ear to ear and crying in awe and excitement to see our new baby. The baby we made together has finally arrived! I gave out an exhaustive sigh as I looked around to see the proud faces of nurses and family smiling and congratulating me. I did it! I pushed and “loved” my baby into this world! The struggle was over. The redemptive journey of my VBAC was over in a glorious victory! Praise Jesus!! Hallelujah!!!
10 minutes of pushing, are you serious? I’m sure some of you want to throw cabbage at your screen right now. I feel you ladies!!!
I reached down to grab my baby, but Jen gently murmured, “Ok, the cord is wrapped around your baby’s neck and foot so we’ll just take that off.” John and my mom recalled later that they weren’t sure whether to be shocked, scared or neither about that statement. Jen lifted my beautiful and aware baby to my chest, while my doula lowered my gown to allow for a skin to skin embrace on the outside of this world. Oh the joy of ecstacy, to be rewarded with such a rush of pure contentment and gratitude! The nurses rubbed Avery a bit and gave her oxygen to revive some blood flow as she came out blue from the cord around her neck. I honestly don’t recall her crying, which is common amongst unmedicated “calm” births. However, I did find a documented photo of her first wails. It’s crazy the things women forget so quickly during pregnancy and birth!
I closed my eyes in relief and pure joy to feel my new baby girl in my arms. Words don’t describe the miraculous beauty of this one magical moment.
As if this moment couldn’t warrant any disturbance, the room came back into play. The pain reappeared in the version of placenta delivering. “Owwwww! How come the pain isn’t gone? Haven’t I worked hard and long enough? Is it not enough that I push a baby out, but now have to deliver a placenta too? Oh! And stitch me up please?!?” One of the nurses said, “Would you like painkillers now?” I exasperately exclaimed, “YES!!!” “Ok, hun, do you want a dosage equivalent to 2 glasses of wine or 4?” “4! Yes, 4!!!” The whole room giggled with approval. “You deserve it hunny” replied my mom. YES I DO!
They flipped Avery over to cut the cord. John and Sabira interjected, stating that we desired to delay cord clamping until the cord stopped pulsating. A nurse insisted “After a minute, there’s no benefit.” Alas, one battle I didn’t care to fight about at that moment, even though I think we could’ve fought for a bit longer and won. The cord was still blue when they clamped it. John cut it and she was brought back up to me.
The drugs kicked in quickly. Oh sweet Jesus, bless the Lord, I’m on cloud 9! As Jen stitched me up (using a huge curvy needle like a fish hook! Yikes!), I embraced this little one on my chest. My mom, John, and Sabira glance over me while my heart melted into mush. What a glorious privilege it is to experience one of God’s most intimate gifts: bringing life into the world. And we utterly embrace it with love and gratitude.
John took Avery over to the heating station to check on her as I took a few peaceful breaths. One of her first gestures to John was reaching out to his face. Whether intentional or not, this image will forever be cherished in my heart.
He brought Avery back in my arms, still naked and unwashed (Oh that baby smell!). She was so calm, squeezing my thumb, resting on her mama’s chest. They took her away once more to put tags on her, John and I. John got to hold her once more, now in a diaper and clean of a little meconium. At least, she was brought back to me to be undisturbed from the medical staff and to work on breastfeeding. Holy Champion Latcher Batman!! One of my favorite moments for sure.
As the dust settled, I regained some dignity of my exposed battle wounds and we reclined back into my bed, nestled up in a football hold of love and soon to come colostrum. Never will I forget the strength it took for me on that special day in history, August 12, 9:45am. I am so blessed to brave the challenging territory that is natural childbirth.
John, I’m so thankful for your incredible support throughout this process. It has been an honor to carry our baby into this side of heaven. I love you so much!
Would I do it again? I know now that I totally can! But I believe I’m meant to dare greatly in other extraordinary experiences in life. Since this is a rite of passage, I wish to give back to others, inform women of their choices and risks and above all, to NOT FEAR under all circumstances, especially birth! Your body is meant, born to do this. We carry the very life substance to grow, push, and nurture a baby to infancy. How crazy is that?! What a joy it is to be a vessel of creation.
Sabira, thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting us through this incredible feat. You placed confidence in me with your knowledge and intuitive expectation of all my needs. You are an angel! I couldn’t have done this without you!
Lois, thanks for showing up right on time! Not a moment too soon right? I was YOUR VBAC baby and I was glad you were there to experience mine. Your heart shines through all of your girls and I’m proud to call you mama. Tell me again, how did you do this 3 times??? I love that you step in gracefully into your Grammy role and I can tell you are just as excited as I am to give Avery all of the girly experiences that we had as kids!
Kayla, thank you so much for documenting one of the most intense and rewarding moments of our lives. You were exactly what you said you’d be, like a fly on the wall. I barely even noticed you, haha! But I’m so grateful I got great photos to remember this memorable event.
To the hospital staff, you’re the bomb! From providing bomb ass food to freezing my placenta for encapsulation, you are truly the saints that make miracles happen. Thank you, Jen, for doing what you needed to do in the moments you needed to do them and you respected many of my wishes but above all, you helped deliver my baby girl!
Avery Jane, it is an honor to be your chosen mother for this wonderful journey of mother and daughterhood. You picked a really good family to be in! We are so thrilled to have you grace us with your magnificent presence. I cannot wait to show you what this life on Earth has to offer. You are a blessing to us all and by that, we also are all blessings!