Aug 7 2013

The “Healthy Baby Card” Part One : Why we grieve the loss of our dream birth

By Bethy Young

A beautiful new little one arrives- it’s a time of celebration, beauty, and excitement as the world expands to fit this tiny new person. Everything seems amazing and Mama is smitten with her new bundle – but a sadness hides behind the love and joy the new mother has in her eyes as she holds her little one close. At first she may hide it, not admitting her secret to anyone. She may feel guilt over any emotion that is not undiluted joy about finally having her baby in her arms. She may even try pushing her emotions aside and hiding them, even from herself.  But a time comes when she slips a comment that lets you know that this mother is disappointed with her birth experience.

You watch as her heart breaks all over again as she reveals the sadness of not having that amazing birth of which she dreamed. Her eyes search for compassion and a tear slides down her cheek and splashes into the soft fuzz of her baby’s hair. You watch as she holds her new love close as she expresses the sadness of her birth experience being lost. You can’t fully comprehend her emotions and you say the thing she has heard countless times: “At least you have a healthy baby. Really, that is all that matters.”  The mother looks at you blankly, nods, and changes the subject – hiding her tears by digging in her new diaper bag.

Birthing our babies is one of those things of which many underestimate the importance. The truth is that we live in a society where many don’t feel a connection to birth. The majority view birth as a painful thing that must be persevered in order to get your prize.  These people, may not understand why a mother feels pain when her birth goes awry. Maybe you interpret it as if she is letting a simple event obstruct the way of connecting with her baby. Maybe you see her as selfish, but this could not be further from the truth. For those who do feel that connection with birth, the experience can be life changing; it is almost a being of itself. It can be a separate entity we grieve while we celebrate the life of our new little one.

Birth represents the time when a woman is at her strongest. It is the all-powerful action that brings us roaring into motherhood. It’s when we are the ‘all-powerful women’ doing what only women can do: bringing life into the world. We are in charge of our bodies, powerful and vulnerable simultaneously. It’s raw and beautiful and we come crashing into motherhood as we push our babies from our bodies and pull them up into our arms. At that moment, we become new mothers and that event of birth has given us everything we need to get an amazing start with our new little ones. We are in awe of this beautiful life that is still slippery and still connected to us by a nourishing cord. At that moment, we are connected to our child, to our bodies, to the significance that we gave this child life.

However, when things go wrong and the experience is taken from us, we lose that moment where nature gives us the hormones, strength, and clarity that we are meant to have when bonding with our baby. We are left to interpret the feelings on our own. If the baby is brought by a c-section – especially a traditional non-family centered one – we are left naked on a table, hands tied down, vulnerable, sedated, and at times, alone. We are often so busy throwing up, purposefully medicated, or completely knocked out that we lose track of time and have no idea if we are cut open yet or if our baby is safe. Our babies go unseen by us until someone else decides it’s time to plop this clean, wrapped up and often lethargic little bundle into our weak arms. It’s as if we have no idea how they arrived there. One minute, our baby was inside us kicking and connected to us and then we halfway wake up from a fog and are expected to connect to that baby, who is now earth side after a blur of events.

We can love that baby with all of our beings, they can be the reason we breathe, but we lost a precious memory and will grieve that moment we lost. We went from being birth goddesses to being vulnerable and scared. We lost a priceless gift. It does not mean we don’t love our babies if we grieve the birth and everything it means. You can adore and love your baby and still be sad that you lost a birth that made becoming a mother and bonding second nature.

For those of us with SS, the traumatic birth is often paired with that related moment when the doctor comes in and declares us broken. We have just had our moment of strength ripped away and are now going through still beautiful but very complex emotions of acquainting ourselves to our new babies. We are sedated, unable to fully sit up on our own and often trying to breastfeed for the first time. We have not even begun our journey to healing from surgery when we are delivered something else to grieve about : the loss for our future births. The doctor or nurse tells us we have a Special Scar and explains that we can kiss the idea of future vaginal births goodbye. They rattle off a rundown of the dangers we face and pair it with expiration dates for the future c-sections that have future children being cut from us before term. Sometimes the news comes with discouraging warnings about having any more kids at all.  In this moment, our birthing future seems predetermined to be surgical, if not completely lost.

So let’s sum that up: we have to process the pain of healing from major surgery, meeting the newest love of our lives, bonding without the hormones a natural  vaginal birth gives, loss of the birth we always imagined, loss of the birth our babies deserved, loss of control, typical post partum body changes, the lost faith in our bodies, the feeling that we did not give our new babies the perfect start, hearing that future birth experiences will be on a hospital’s terms and processing what it means to have a Special Scar.  Depending on different women’s experiences, you can throw in learning to breastfeed, other health concerns, extreme medication like Magnesium, having a baby in the NICU, a partner’s disappointment, postpartum depression, or loss of faith in medical professionals. That is a huge list of things to process all at once!

Birth is more than just how we get a baby. It is a moment where the next chapter of our life opens. No matter if you are a first time mom or a mom of six, you are still meeting the newest love of your life and opening that new chapter. How a chapter starts matters.

Next:  The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Two :  A card not to pull“


Jun 19 2013

Facing Your Fears: Pregnancy after a Special Scar

By Kristi U.

Being a women with a “special scar” puts us in a different category than most women thinking about having a baby or another baby. We women with special scars are confronted with fears long before we ever even decide to conceive a child (if we’re willing to take that risk.) The questions we ask are many… Should we take our doctor’s advice and schedule a c-section (sometimes recommended as early as 36 weeks)? Should we try for a vaginal birth even though our risks are generally much higher than those women who have “normal” c-section scars or no scars at all? Should we even get pregnant again and risk the loss of a baby or our own lives? Many mainstream MD’s will feed us every fear they can think of so that we go with the easiest route for them which is almost always early c-section IF we even decide to get pregnant. Some doctors will even go so far as to tell us not to get pregnant at all.
Though I’m still in the midst of conquering my fears, I think I can boil down how I face these fears to three things. 1) Knowledge is Power, 2) Find your Peace., and 3) Fear Can’t Make Decisions
Knowledge is Power. – I used to believe everything my OB/GYN told me. But as soon as I was made to feel broken after being given my special scar, that all started to change. I just couldn’t accept the fact that any baby I might decide to have in the future would have to be a preemie and would have to be born by c-section. So I began researching. I read articles. I read medical journals. I read book after book after book. And I found the Special Scars group of women. Before I ever talked to another physician about the possibility of a VBAC, I made sure I knew the accurate statistics and true percentages of my risks. I also became extremely aware of the fact that it would be very hard to find a provider who would be willing to help me if I decided for a VBAC, so I prepared myself emotionally. I knew a pregnancy would likely mean I would have a battle on my hands, and I had to be prepared for that before I could get pregnant again. Knowledge was key for me as I faced the idea of getting pregnant again. I needed more than the fear-based stats that my OB gave me. I needed to hear success stories. I needed to find the true statistics. And that’s what I did. And it was very empowering.
Find Your Peace. – All of my research and thinking about having another baby and praying and pondering left me very discontent for a long time. After I had waited long enough after my surgery and it was technically “safe” for me to be pregnant, there were a few months when I took a pregnancy test and actually prayed that it not be positive. I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t have peace. I didn’t know if I could face another pregnancy filled with worry and angst. After five or six months of this, I finally started to feel more peaceful about being pregnant again. All the knowledge I had gained in research, and my desire to have another child finally started to win over the fears. And the day I got my BFP, a wave of peace washed over me. I still hadn’t found a supportive provider. And it wasn’t as though I had put to rest all my worries of being pregnant. But something greater than me took over. A profound peace washed over me with that positive pregnancy test, and I’ve relied on that peace to carry me through the pregnancy. I am currently 35 weeks pregnant and planning to VBAC, and I have peace with that decision. But there have been times during this pregnancy that I’ve felt peace with an RCS as well. I really think each SS momma needs to dig deep into herself and find out where her peace is. Sit with the idea of a repeat c-section for a couple of weeks. Do you have peace? Then sit with the idea of a VBAC for awhile. Maybe that gives you peace. It’s possible that you won’t have true peace with either decision until you’ve really sat with the idea of both for a few months. I’m trusting that I will know the correct decision for this baby one way or another, and until baby’s birth day comes around I have to stay with the decision that gives me the most peace.
Fear Can’t Make Decisions. – Fear can be paralyzing. We can sit in it. Dwell on it. Live with it. But we can’t function as women and especially as mothers when we let it control us. I finally came to the conclusion that fear could not make my decision for me when it came to getting pregnant again or how I would birth. I realized that I could do everything by the book – eat right, exercise, maintain optimal health – and still I was not in ultimate control over the outcome of my pregnancy, whether it be vaginally or by c-section. So while it might be wise to consider the possible outcomes of a pregnancy, dwelling on the bad stuff that could happen won’t get you anywhere. It will leave you paralyzed. That being said, our bodies are amazing creations. They are capable of so much more than many doctors and even we ourselves think they are. We are meant to birth our children. And our bodies are built to heal when they are injured. This doesn’t mean things always work out as we wish, but it does mean that we have positives to focus on rather than the fears that paralyze.
And here I sit… almost 35 weeks pregnant with baby number four. I’m looking so forward to this baby’s birth and I’m hoping and praying it will be a vaginal delivery. Do I still carry fears with me? I guess it depends on the day and moment you ask me. Every now and then I have a moment that gives me pause about my choice to VBAC. Sometimes it’s brought on by a friend or family member questioning my decision. Sometimes it’s brought on by a twinge of pain around my scar site that makes me wonder how things are going in there. Other times the fears just pop up out of nowhere. But then I go back to my three tools in facing these fears. I know the research, I still have peace, and I won’t let fear control me. I don’t know where I will be for sure at the end of this pregnancy. Will I have had a healing and conquering VBAC? Will I end up with another c-section? I can’t predict the future, but I can trust that things will be just as they should. The only thing I know for sure that I will have at the end of this journey is the knowledge that I took on a fear that I didn’t know if I could conquer. I told the fear of pregnancy, the fear of rupture, the fear of c-section to take a hike. They no longer hold power over me the way they did just after I received my special scar, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

About the author: Kristi U has been a member of SpecialScars for almost two years. She has four children – one of which is still in-utero. Her first was an augmented vaginal birth with epidural. The second was another augmented vaginal birth – but more natural, despite being in the hospital and having to deal with the pitocin that her doctor used to “speed things up.” Her third pregnancy ended in a special scar. She was left with a preterm vertical scar due to complete placenta previa that was suspected to be accreta. She was left with the instruction that she could never again have a vaginal birth. Not only that, the doctors insisted that any future pregnancies would need to end in c-section at 36 weeks gestation. At the writing of this article Kristi is currently in her third trimester with baby number four. She is hoping to VBAC sometime in July of 2013.


Jun 11 2013

The Dream of Birth From a Special Scar Mom

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By Bethy Young

I can’t help it, I’m obsessed with birth. Everything about it just calls to me. Some people don’t understand my obsession, but to me birth is the most primal, beautiful, perfect thing a woman can go through. Yes, there is pain and work, but with that comes strength and beauty and determination, and what it brings – oh, the joy it brings! Nothing is as precious to me as my two children, and the thought that my body could bring those two little things that bring me so much joy into the world is pure magic and wonder in my eyes.

 

Here is the thing though, I’ve never given birth.

 

With my Special Scar son I had the opposite of a birth. I was tore down and split open and tormented with words and actions. I was forced to lay in bed afterward without food and hooked up to tubes while nurses tried to take our son from us, claiming it’s for your own good, you need rest, forget about breastfeeding, we have something to give him, and literally yelling at me for trying to care for my own son in my bed.

 

But what they did not get was the only thing that was going to heal me was that tiny little boy that I felt I barely knew. I held onto him, not knowing him, but knowing one day I would. As they treated me like a sick patient, or maybe even property of their own, they forgot one thing. I was, more than anything, a new mother desperate to get to know her baby.

 

Days – finally I was unhooked and given nourishment. As the sun rose up over the city and shined into our room on my bed, I had that moment, I call it my birth moment, but just to ease the pain that I did not get the birth I yearned for, I did not give my son the entrance into this world he deserved. I still went through physical pain to get it. But I also went through more mental pain than I imagined I would. But regardless, through much work I reached the point where I could look into that stranger baby’s eyes and say “Hey you, you are not a stranger. In fact I love you. I barely know you but I love you more then you will ever know. I am something new as a woman…. I am your mama and I love you.”

 

I also had to say something I had not planned – I’m sorry. I sobbed. “I’m sorry baby. I’m sorry I did not give you the birth you deserve. I’m sorry I did not meet you and instantly know you. I’m sorry that you were not born to a strong birthing goddess who scooped you from the water and into her arms the instant you entered the world. You must have been scared that I was not with you and I’m sorry.”

 

I took that little baby and held him to my breast to feed him. My scar hurt and my heart hurt, but the light shone through the window and I knew I loved him. A long road would be walked to healing but I had him and I loved him.

 

With scars come strength. I learned I could fight and I yearned for the birth. Long road was an understatement to get to my next turn. I never imagined how much mental work it took to walk that road. I labored. It was not the magical at home labor I wanted but it was labor. I remember little snippets of things so clearly. My husband’s hands clasping mine. Going inside my head and talking to my little girl. My doula pushing my hair from my eyes. My husbands hands squeezing my hips and his voice in my ear telling me I could do it. Labor is work, but it’s beautiful and I loved it.

 

I learned so much about myself in those hours. People ask if I would go back and skip the labor and I say no, and I mean it. I had a tiny taste of what it felt to be a birthing woman. But I did not get to push my little girl into the world. It was a better memory than my first and we bonded the second I held her, but I did not give her the birth I felt she deserved. I still was not a strong birthing goddess.

 

Four months later a beautiful video of an acquaintance’s home birth plays on my screen and I silently cry. I’m happy – I’m jealous – I’m in awe – I’m sad – my breath is taken away – and tears splash down my cheeks. I love birth, I want birth. Safe in my home surrounded by the ones I love. No one gets it, but it would change everything inside myself. I would be a birthing goddess – I would be strong – I would still have my scar but I would have something else as well. I realize I don’t want to rid myself of my scar, I want to overcome it. I can’t go back in time and change things, I will always have the scars and they have made me who I am today. The way you bring your baby into the world changes you whether you admit it or not.

 

I may never have this, honestly I really doubt we’ll ever have that dream home birth. But I lie to myself because the truth is that I’m not ready to give it up … and maybe I should not give it up because maybe I can.

 

My baby girl’s hands curl around my breast and I hold her closer. My son laughs from the floor by my feet where he plays. Once again I silently apologize to them for not feeling whole. I love them, I truly do. They make me the woman I am…. It’s not about them at all, they are perfect, pure, and I’m in love. No one gets that my want for this magical birth in no way affects my love for them and my gratefulness that they are here, safe, and healthy. But it’s ok to need something for yourself, and I need birth. Even if it’s just reading others’ stories, I need to remember that we as women are strong and primal, and we can bring our babies into the world. That women in my position have done it. You may not get it – but I do….


Jun 7 2013

Confessions of a Uterine Rupture mom

By Andrea Marie Fierro

Having a Special Scar is more than just having a scar on your uterus. It is much more than that, and it goes way deeper. A lot of people don’t understand. My Special Scar is an upright T due to a complete uterine rupture. When it happened, I was told that I couldn’t have any more kids. And you know what, at the time I actually believed it. And I accepted it. I thought that I didn’t have a choice. My baby was THIS close to dying, and I knew the same thing would happen if I got pregnant again.

Once I got home from the hospital, the sadness really set in. We wanted a fairly big family, and all of that was crushed. I found myself crying all of the time, and I felt so broken. Why was my body not up to par? What did I do wrong? And the one that still haunts me… “Why me?!”.  So many women go on to have smooth VBACs, why did I have to rupture? There were so many questions, and so many tears.

I had to deal with a lot of people who didn’t truly get what I was going through. A lot of people thought that I should’ve already been over it. Of course, most don’t say it. But you can just tell. I got a lot of “at least you have a healthy baby” and some even went as far as telling me that my rupture couldn’t have been complete because my baby came out okay. Those people weren’t on that table with me when I had to listen to the doctor freak out about not knowing where everything goes in there. “Is this cervix?!” “What is this?!” “Where does this go?!”. Johnathan’s body, cord and arm were inside of my abdominal cavity… outside of my uterus. It was serious, and he barely made it. And it really hurt when people would dismiss the seriousness of it, because it made me feel like I was upset about nothing. That was the most traumatic thing I have been through (Alex’s birth is right up there, too) and it was not easy to deal with. And it’s still not.

When I found Special Scars-Special Women, I felt refreshed. All these ladies have been told the same thing I have, and they still go on to have amazing births afterwards. It was almost unbelievable. I was presented with a ton of information, and I took my time going over it all. I read a lot of things that I have never read before; I educated myself. With the help of those wonderful women, I realized that my body is not broken, and that I have the right to choose how I want to birth. My body, my choice.  And with all of the information I had in front of me, I made the decision to go on to have another child.

Something I never tell others is that I plan to have that child via VBAC.

It’s safer. I refuse to sign up for a C-section “just in case”. My body works. The risks for surgery are very high, and that is something that people really lose sight of. The obvious goal here is a healthy baby and mom, and I feel that is best achieved by having a vaginal birth. The fact that I’m planning to have VBAC mistakenly made it to the wrong people not too long ago. I was harassed and was called many names. But I will no longer let all of that get to me. I’m very confident in my decision and no one can tell me otherwise. I am not afraid.

We are not adding to our family just yet, but when we do, I know I will have so much support. Through Special Scars, I have found women who will support me no matter what. After the rupture, I have made amazing new friends, and found lots of people who I can connect with. I am no longer alone. I have grown from this. And although I didn’t know much then, I know a lot now. Education is key.


Oct 24 2013

The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Three: Talking to a women with birth grief

By Bethy Young 

Welcome to Part 3 of our series! If you are behind please check out Part 1 and Part 2  of our series on ‘The Healthy Baby Card’.

Let’s go back in time to the friend from part one (link). Your friend has expressed the sadness that comes with not getting the birth she desired. In this scenario, you have yet to pull the ‘Healthy Baby Card’. You are a new person now! You’re now a person who understands what birth means to those who hold the action close to thier heart; you are a person who understands what the ‘Healthy Baby Card’ implies and know to avoid it at all cost! So what do you say when no words seem right? Your instincts may still go toward reminding the women of the positive: her healthy baby. You still may want to take away her pain or focus the subject on the more comfortable choice…

But STOP and put away that card!

Instead, let’s pull out your ‘‘love and support card.” Lay that on the table!

Simply taking a second to ask how the mother feels is an amazing start. I get it: new babies are adorable and exciting but if you can just take a moment to talk to mom before swooping in on the newest little one, it can be an amazing gesture. If the new mom expresses any sadness toward her birth, remember that these feelings are her own. You can’t force her to not feel them and they are very real to her. Take a second to show her love and support:
“It’s ok to to cry.”
“I’m sorry, I know you were really excited about natural birth.”
“Allow yourself to grieve.”
“I’m sorry your door into motherhood was not the one you always dreamed of.”
“You’re a strong woman and you gave up so much for the safety and health of your baby… I’m sorry it had to be like this.”

The goal is to let her know you love her. You are not disappointed in her, but you are sorry that she is in pain, and – above all else – to respect her right to feel disappointment. If the mother seems like she wants to talk more, you can then just be a listening ear, a hand to hold, and a shoulder to cry on. On the other hand, if the mother is not ready to express her feelings deeper yet, don’t push. Let her know that it’s ok to take it one day at a time. You are there if she needs you. After that, you can move on to partaking in the joy she has for the new baby with the knowledge that mom and her feelings are validated.

Some people feel a cesarean is a good thing, an easy way out. They think it’s less painful and think we should be grateful to be relieved from the pain of childbirth. However, recovering from a c-section can be an extremely painful ordeal that can take months upon months. Labor is pain with purpose – it lasts a short time and comes with so many wonderful perks. A c-section can be much harder to heal from – both emotionally and physically – and it’s simply not an easy way out.  In some people’s quests to make the mom feel like everything is ok, they may turn their focus on showing her what they perceive as the optimistic side of what happened.  Many of us c-section moms have heard things such as:

“Feel lucky you did not have to go through labor.”
“Be glad you did not have to push all 10 pounds of your son out of your body.”
“Now you have an excuse to have an early c-section next time! How great that you can get future babies cut out at 36 weeks before you get super huge and uncomfortable. Oh and no labor pain!”
“Some people just weren’t meant to give birth naturally.”
“You can make healthy babies, you just can’t birth them the right way.”

It’s important to remember that many women who have had birth plans go awry are very sensitive about how they could have made their outcome different. Avoid picking at the decisions or speculating on what could have happened if they would have went a different direction. Comments like :
“Aren’t you glad you didn’t have that home birth you planned?”
“Doctor knows best! He has the degree, not you!”
“Do you wish you would have gone to that midwife I suggested?”
These are examples of things you could say that will tear a mom up inside and make her question herself. She will make herself sick thinking of all the ways she could have changed things and of every outcome from the horrible to the amazing:
“If I would have had a homebirth, would my baby have died or would I be standing here a changed woman with a miraculous birth experience under her belt?”
“If doctor knows best then I must be selfish for being upset. But what about mothers intuition?”
“This is my fault. I let fear control me. I could have been more educated. I could have researched more. My body is broken and so is my mind.”
The honest truth is no one really knows what she would be like today if she would have made a different decision.

Remember above all respect of the mothers emotions is the most important thing.

Coming Soon- the last post of the series: The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Four: When baby is not healthy


Sep 22 2013

Leah’s Story: Brody’s VBA2C

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Aug 27 2013

Special Scars ~ Special Women Non Profit Filing Fundraiser!

As always we want thank everyone who supports us! Without those who believe in us we would not be here. We are in the process of  raising funds to file our 501c3 non profit status. If you would like to make a donation please visit our donations page! 


Aug 26 2013

The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Two : A card not to pull

By Bethy Young

“Just be thankful for what you got”
“It could be worse.”
“Many people would give anything to have a baby.”
“It’s not about the birth, it’s about the baby”
“A healthy baby is all that matters”

These are all things that people say without a second thought. They are meant to be comforting and positive. They are said to make a mother not dwell on the fact that her birth was not as she hoped. Maybe it comes from a place of love: not wanting to see mom hurt. Or maybe a place of sympathy: giving the mom permission to not care that she did not bring her baby into the world the way she wished.  Maybe some even misinterpret her disappointment of her birth for not being happy about her new baby and feel it’s their place to give her a reality check. No matter the reason the “healthy baby card” is not meant to hurt….but it does.

In part one of ‘The Healthy Baby Card’ we talked about why a birth experience is important, now it’s time to talk about why ‘The Healthy Baby Card’ should never be pulled on a mother who is experiencing birth grief.  ‘The Healthy Baby Card’ is when a person expresses the belief that all that matters is a healthy baby. To outsiders it seems like a way to help the mom hold her head up, look at the glass half full, or be thankful for what she has. In reality ‘The Healthy Baby Card’ is one of the worst things for a mom with birth grief to hear. It devalues the love she has for her baby and undermines the grief of losing out on a positive birth experience for herself and her baby.

A woman who has gone through a difficult birth experience has given up a lot to bring her baby into the world. One thing that ‘The Healthy Baby Card’ does is undermine what a Special Scar mom (or any mother with a difficult birth situation) has given up to get her child earthside. It’s an act of love to give your body up to be cut open and to give up loss of control. We are ecstatic that our baby is healthy, we gave up our hopes, desires, and moment of strength for our baby after all. Grieving the loss of our dream birth is a separate grief that has nothing to do with a healthy baby.

It’s also worth mentioning a healthy baby does not mean a healthy mom. If the birth trauma a mother faced was due to her own health she may feel guilt that her own issues got in the way of her child’s birth. On top of it health issues can make it hard to perform other parenting duties. C-sections take a long time to heal from and a mother will not be at her healthiest peak afterward. Healing from major abdominal surgery is painful. The mother will feel weak and in pain, possibly loopy from medication and even getting up to use the bathroom is painful. In any other situation a person would be told to rest and heal, but add caring for a new baby ,as well as any older children he may have, that is a lot to take on at once!  Some women respond badly to medication given and spend the first few days of babies life sick and unable to care, bond, or even hold their new baby.  The mental health of the mother may also be affected after a traumatic birth. Throw in the news of your new Special Scar and all of the normal post baby hormone jumps such as baby blues and a mother may feel as if her own mental health is lacking.

By focusing all of your energy on the importance of the healthy baby you are -possibly unintentionally- implying that once a women becomes a mother her own health has not importance. But as the old adage says “If mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.” A happy well adjusted baby needs a happy, well adjusted, and healthy mom. For breastfeeding mothers the baby and nursling are often considered a pair and affect one another’s health and well being! If Mama’s health is in jeopardy babies can quickly decline from healthy to sickly. Mothers health – mental or physical-  is just as important as her baby’s.

Many women get their Special Scars due to complications with the baby. Some of these babies were born prematurely or with other health issues that land them in NICU. If this is the case the ‘healthy baby card’ can hurt more than ever because their baby is in fact not healthy. An alive baby does not equal a healthy baby. Sometimes people will replace ‘the healthy baby card’ with the ‘alive baby card’ and say something along of the lines of “be thankful your child is alive. It could have been worse.” This is very hurtful and cruel. Remember that often times a mother with an unhealthy baby is spending all her time watching her new baby fight for life in an incubator. She is often not allowed to hold her new baby and she has to watch as her little one fights for her health. She is very thankful her baby is alive, but naturally she is saddened by the loss of skin to skin contact and the joy of bringing your freshly born newborn into your home.  The last thing she needs is guilt for grieving the loss of the first few weeks with her baby she always dreamed of that is a part of the healing process.

As time goes on some mothers may figure out that their birth experience could have gone differently. Maybe scare tactics were used on them or maybe they were just uneducated or fully put their trust in their care providers. As the pieces come together for the women who were subjected to false emergencies they may start to grieve all over again and question things. Often times loved ones around them don’t understand the opening of the old wounds and ‘The Healthy Baby Card’ comes out in a much stronger and more criticizing way. Friends and loved ones may question why the women is suddenly obsessing over the “what if’s” when her baby turned out fine. Often times the women is finally finding what she needs to take control of her body again and it working through the facts and learning through her experience, she is healing and taking control. As those around her guilt her for worrying about anything other than the fact that she has a healthy baby she starts to feel guilt and her healing process is halted, often suppressed,  as she starts to question herself even more. Comments such as “Well it all turned out ok. She seems healthy now” are simply not supportive or helpful to a mother who is working through her emotions.

So you now may be wondering what you can say to a mother who is upset and grieving her experience. In part three we will discuss some options for supporting mothers who have Special Scars or other experiences that resulted in a less than desirable birth experience.

Coming Soon: The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Three: Talking to a women with birth grief


Aug 11 2013

A Critique of A VBAC Primer

By Jessica Tiderman

My assignment was to choose one article that you disagree with or feel contains information that might be harmful, inaccurate, controversial or unnecessarily frightening for pregnant women.  It sort of turned into a rant.  ;-)

Article:  A VBAC Primer: Technical Issues for Midwives
By Heidi Rinehart, MD
http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/vbacprimer.asp

The first problem that I have with this article is its age.  This article was published in Spring, 2001.  A publication like Midwifery Today should have articles like this updated every 5 years or whenever new studies come out with evidence supporting or refuting the thesis.  In the time since this article was published there have been a variety of studies and an update to the ACOG Practice Bulletin that she referred to.

In this article, Rinehart claims that women who have had a classical, T- or J-incision on the uterus from their cesarean should not be allowed to VBAC.  My first problem with this statement is that very few women have an upright T incision, many more have an Inverted T which is an entirely different incision altogether.  Her inaccurate terminology makes me wonder how well she researched the unusual cesarean incisions (Special Scars) before writing this article. She also didn’t quote any stats on what the possible risk of rupture is for those incisions or what it was expected to be at that time.  In a study published in 2004, Landon et al found a uterine rupture rate of 1.9% for women with a Classical, Inverted T or J scar.  Rinehart presents this information in a way that would be very frightening to any midwife or mother who did not have knowledge of the Landon study or of the many women who have VBAC’d on these scars without incident.

In the section titled “Types of Uterine Incisions” I believe her description of how the uterine scars heal is inaccurate, I don’t know of very many old episiotomy scars that just sprang “open during the most gentle birth.”  Most episiotomy and cesarean scars heal very well with little remaining scar tissue.  Further, she uses a lot of technical terms in this section that make things sound unnecessarily scary.

According to Gretchen Humpries article The Suture Debate (http://icanofdupagecounty.club.officelive.com/TheSutureDebate.aspx), the single layer of sutures is less likely to become infected, become inflamed, hemorrhage, and/or cause endometritis.  Therefore by Rinehart’s own logic this would make them less likely to rupture.

I do believe she is correct in theorizing that the state of health of the mother at the time of the previous cesarean is more of an indication of rupture than her state of health during the current pregnancy.

In the section titled “Risks of VBAC”, she states that “a separation of the uterine scar can result in death or neurologic injury for the baby (estimated at 30%)”.  At the NIH VBAC conference in 2010 Dr. Landon stated that the current estimate for catastrophic rupture is only 6%.  She also states that “women with two previous cesareans have a three- to five-fold greater risk (between 1.7 and 3.7 percent of all labors) of uterine rupture than women with one previous cesarean.”  It was also stated at the NIH VBAC conference that risk of rupture for a VBA2C was only slightly higher than a VBAC at 0.9%.

She does also point out that inductions and interventions do increase the risk of rupture, but to me it seems like she emphasizes the possible risks more than the causes and how to lower the risks.

She recommends that home birth midwives have the mother get “an ultrasound early in the third trimester to rule out a placenta that is overlying the previous scar.”  I believe this would be less than helpful.  Scars cannot always been seen on accurately on ultrasound if at all.  Having this ultrasound opens the mother and baby to new risks as well.  If the ultrasound tech decides there isn’t enough fluid, is too much fluid, baby is too big, baby is too small, etc.  What then?  Not to mention the unknown risk of ultrasound exposure.

Ultimately, I feel she does little to reassure midwives or mothers that VBACs at home are safe unless the mother has only had one cesarean and it was a low transverse incision.


Aug 6 2013

Dani’s VBAC after Classical — Elliot’s Birth Story


Jul 20 2013

Johnathan’s Birth – VBAC attempt turned uterine rupture story

Johnathan’s Birth – VBAC attempt turned uterine rupture story When we found out that we were expecting another baby, emotions were all over the place. Of course, we were happy.. but at the same time we were very scared. Scared that we might not be able to care for two children. Scared that Alex might not respond well to a new baby. Scared that we won’t be able to love them equally, since Alex was our whole world. It was really hard trying to wrap our heads around it all. Alex was only 9 months old, still a baby himself. But as time went on, we saw this new baby as a gift, especially to Alex, that was coming our way. The idea of having two small kids was growing on us, but we were still scared. I guess that’s normal though. We had no idea how the transition from one kid, to two kids would go. All we knew was that they were going to be close. Really close. And we really liked that idea.

I was a lot sicker with this pregnancy than with my first. I was always so tired and I never wanted to do anything. Everyone told me that I was going to have a girl because my pregnancies were so different. But I think everyone just thought that because I already had a boy, I had to be having a girl now. From the very start, I knew that I wanted a VBAC. I knew that I did not want to go through what I went through with Alex again. There was no way I was going to get cut open again. Thankfully, my midwives supported me 100%. There were no questions asked, and there was nothing in their eyes that would prevent me from birthing this baby naturally. Which was awesome. I didn’t know at that point that some women had to fight for a VBAC, I thought all providers we this great. I know the truth now, and I see how lucky I really was.

Time kept going by, and I kept getting bigger. The fatigue started to hit hard, and I started to realize that it was not easy to chase after a toddler while being pregnant. Alex’s crazy amount of energy never failed to wear me out. Still, I had to keep it together for him and be the best mommy I could be.. because he needed me.

We went for our 20 week anatomy scan and found out that we were having another BOY! Exciting, but very unexpected. I had a feeling that I was going to have a girl this time. I guess not! Also, at our anatomy scan, the perinatologist explained to us that during the ultrasound, they found that there was a bright spot on his heart and a cyst found on his brain. Those signs together could indicate Down’s Syndrome. My odds almost doubled after that scan and we were offered an amniocentesis, to see if he had it for sure. We declined and chose to wait to out. They wanted to see me again in about a month to see if the markers went away and I was told not to worry. Not to worry? Seriously? I worried for a long time. I tried to mentally prepare myself to take care of a special needs child. I knew I was capable, it was just all so new to me. I just wanted my baby to be healthy, just like every parent out there. I will admit that deep down, I knew everything was going to be fine. I would try to prepare myself, but it was like my mind was telling me that there was no need to. M was a lot more worried than I was though. I had to constantly remind him that everything was going to be okay. As life got busier, we let those worries slip from our minds. Until the next ultrasound, of course. And that scan showed us that our boy was perfectly healthy. Both markers disappeared. We were overjoyed!

Throughout my pregnancy, Johnathan was going back and forth between being head down, and being oblique (head at my hip) and I was always so good at telling where he was. After many attempts at trying to get a midwife to feel him oblique, we finally caught him. I was told to get a belly band and wear it tightly all day to try to get him to stay head down and engage. I also spent a lot of time on the yoga ball, trying to get him in a better position. I do wish I would have done more about it though. I know now how important positioning is, and I didn’t know that before. The midwives told me that I could still try for my VBAC, but since he was malpositioned, they were not going to push my body too hard. And they wanted me in ASAP if my water was to break, since the chance of cord prolapse was greater.

So fast forward to the day I went into labor. It was March 3rd, 2012. A Saturday. M had just got off of work and we were having dinner, it was around 6:30 PM. I can’t quite remember what we were having though. I remember a gross feeling “down there”. I went to the restroom and peed, and as I got up, I discovered bloody show!! I literally screamed “OMG!” and went to go tell M what had happened. I was shocked, but since I was just a bit over 37 weeks when I had Alex, I knew I was going to go early again. And I did! I was told that they found I had a bicornuate uterus during my c-section, so the babies literally run out of room to grow anymore in there, making me go into labor a bit early. Contractions started at around 10:00 PM, pretty mild at first. M offered to put Alex to sleep that night since I was “in labor”. I was still in denial, as always. M started playing StarCraft since things were still pretty easy for me. I sat at the kitchen table, feeling my contractions get stronger and stronger. I started feeling this intense scar pain, I’ve never felt pain at my scar so it was pretty alarming. It was very strong while I was standing up, and never really went away, even between contractions. It was a sharp pain that went through my entire incision site. It burned.. a lot. But when I sat down, I didn’t feel anything. I guess that was the weird part for me. I was really having a hard time straightening my midsection out. Something was not right, and I was starting to get nervous. I actually tried to avoid sitting down because I didn’t want my contractions to slow down or stop. At this point I told M that I needed to go in and get checked. He then told his game buddies that we were off to have a baby. I filled him in on the pain I was having and how I felt about it. I decided to go ahead and call the midwives. It took me so long to get in touch with someone, which was really odd because I’ve never had to call them more than once. M had fallen asleep on the couch and I was pacing back in forth in the living room trying to get a hold of someone. After a few pages, I got a call back. She said for some reason her pager was not working right. My contractions were not consistent, but I still felt like I needed to go in. I explained everything to her and she said that I was probably in early labor and that the scar pain sounded normal. I sure didn’t feel normal. She heard me breathe through a contraction and gave me the option to either come in, or wait it out. But she was sure that I was fine. I opted to go in and get checked anyway. I woke M up and told him we had to go. His mom was “on call” for us since they live down the street. It was around 3 AM. He tried to call his parents multiple times, and no answer! He ended up having to go to their house and jump there fence to get her to wake up. While he was gone, I got all of my toiletries and bags ready. Finally, M’s mom was here, I kissed Alex and we were on our way.

On the car ride there, my contractions were starting to fizzle off. I had maybe a couple the entire drive there. I kept making sure M knew that I just needed to be checked, and that we are better safe than sorry. I didn’t want him to be disappointed if we got sent home, since I was sure we wouldn’t be admitted. We got to the parking structure and started walking towards the hospital. I didn’t have ANY contractions on the way up. I was still very sore though, so we had to take it easy. We got to L&D and it was pretty empty, we got into our room right away. The nurse gave me my robe and said she was going to set everything up while I was changing. As soon as I walked into the restroom and started changing.. bam!! the contractions hit again. And they hit hard. I walked out of there in a lot of pain and for once I thought that this could actually be it. I got all set up on the monitors and his heart rate looked perfect, what a relief. They confirmed that I was having contractions every minute and a half, and they were lasting long. Really right on top of each other. The nurse said that we had to get a few minutes of the contractions on paper and that she was going to call the midwife down. It was hell laying on that bed, I was not getting any breaks from the pain. Finally the midwife came down. She said she was going to check me so I took my underwear off. I had a pad on and I felt embarrassed so I explained that things felt very “weird” down there and it felt like my water was going to break any second. She waiting till I was not having a contraction and then proceeded to check me. She said “oh yeah, you are preeeety dilated”. I was so expecting her to say I was 2 cm, maybe 3 cm dilated. But no, I was a whole 8 cm dilated!!! I was thin and soft with a really big bulging bag of water. I guess that’s when it really hit me, I was going to give birth in just a couple short hours. I couldn’t believe it, M and I were in shock. It had taken me SO long to dilate last time that I just couldn’t believe it. It was literally a dream come true because I always said that I wanted to show up super progressed to the hospital this time. And it happened! All without me even knowing I was in labor to begin with. I guess I probably hit transition as I arrived to the hospital.

So this part still kills me. The midwife was starting to walk away and she said she was going to make some phone calls and get all of my paperwork set up. I asked her if she thought it was a good idea for me to get the epidural. She said “Yes! that is a good idea” and walked out of the room to call anesthesia. I have no idea what brought me to ask her that. I was set on a natural birth and everything was going so perfectly. I blame it on fear. But on fear of what? I have no idea.. and I still regret it to this day. I guess I needed someone to tell me that I didn’t need it and that I was fine without it. I can’t even begin to explain what was going though my mind at that point. I think that has to me my most regretted moment of this birth. But I do know I needed relief form those piggyback contractions. They seriously never stopped. At this point, two nurses come in to place my IV. I was so not in the mood for these idiots. I could tell from the moment that they walked in that something weird was going to happen. They start talking about I don’t even know what.. maybe how their weekend went? Something like that. One starts my IV, oh so slowly. And I’m over here in transition, in bed, and just not comfortable. As she goes to put the tube in, she does it too slow and blood gushes ALL over. Mostly all over her though. Her clothes, her hair, her arm. And they start cracking up. Still, I was not in the mood and really wanted them out of my face. The other one tells me that I have to forgive them, it was 4 am and they were just exhausted. I sat there as she finished up with tears rolling down my cheeks because I was just that annoyed and in pain.

So the anesthesiologist gets in, he’s basically god to me at that point because the pain was overly painful and just was not going away, even in between contractions. I have two new (awesome) nurses at this point and one was holding me as I leaned over the side of the bed to get my epidural placed. She helped me breathe through all of the pain and helped me stay still enough to get the needle in. Everything got placed and I was a happy camper. My new nurses went ahead and put my catheter in and M went to go get the bags out of the car.. because we were staying!!

One of my nurses were named Gloria and she was just the best. The epidural was nice for awhile but eventually started fading. They had to call the anesthesiologist back in over and over again to keep uping my dose. It just kept wearing off. Even the little button they gave me to push (for more medication) was not working. The anesthesiologist’s name was Johnathan, pretty cool since that was the name we had picked out for our baby. He didn’t have a problem with coming in so much to help me. We were all pretty confused as to what was going on, since he was confident that it was placed right. After awhile, it felt like I didn’t have any pain relief at all. And of course, the contractions never let up. I was checked again and I was at a 9. One more cm to go, I was so excited. So I continued to labor and I continued to get medicine placed in my IV for the pain. During the check, I was also told that baby’s head was still very high, and kind of off to the side. People were starting to get concerned about my contractions. I guess it was weird to see NO breaks at all in between them. My uterus was working extra hard to try to get that baby in the right position. Everything went by so quick to me, so I don’t remember exactly when I got checked.. but I know that I was stuck at a 9 for awhile. The new midwife who’s shift had just begun was scared to break my water, because she didn’t want the cord to come out. She called in an OB to do it for her. They were hoping that would help me dilate that last cm. I was told that was supposed to be the easiest dilation, and that I was not supposed to get stuck at that point. The OB checked me before she was going to break my water, and during the check, my water broke on it’s own. She kept her hand in there for awhile just to make sure none of the cord came out. Of course I was still at a 9 and he wasn’t engaged. I was told that there was A LOT of fluid. M said he saw, and it was basically a waterfall!! The fluid was nice and clear.

So I was still in a lot of pain and the anesthesiologist kept giving me more pain relief. I was just and ongoing cycle. The closeness of my contractions were starting to get everyone concerned. I remember a test being done, I’m just not sure what it was called or what was done. My mind is not remembering it for some reason, but I think it had to do with checking to see if there was a mixture between maternal and fetal blood. I’m not sure if that was it exactly, or why they did it, but it came back normal. The midwife said that she wanted to put internal monitors in me and check to see if the problems were because my contractions were not strong enough. I didn’t feel so good about that, so I declined. I changed my position as much as I could being somewhat numb in the legs. Then the midwife offered pitocin. Really? Was this lady really trying to give me pitocin, when my contractions were already coming at a dangerous rate?? Of course I said no thanks. Even Gloria thought she was crazy, she told me that she was NOT going to let her give me any of that. I have no idea why that was even suggested. I think it was around this time that I had a break down. I cried about the fact that I couldn’t progress, I cried because I was in so much pain. I was ready to give up. I did not want this to end up like Alexander’s birth, my main goal was a healthy baby. I didn’t care at this point how he got here, I just didn’t want to go through that trauma again. Everyone in the room tried to convince me that everything was okay. Gloria said that we were going to have a VBAC in that room, soon.

At around 11:40 AM, on Sunday, March 4th I made the decision to go in for a repeat c-section. I was just not comfortable laboring anymore. I was a mess, I just wanted my baby out and in my arms. It was a hard pill to swallow. I talked it over with M, who really wanted me to have my VBAC, and we agreed that it was time. Neither of us were happy about it though. I told the midwife and she said she would have me into surgery soon. And the anesthesiologist gave me another dose of medicine. Before the midwife walked out of the room, she had my lay in a position on my side, with one leg up, in a last effort attempt to get me dilated.

Almost as soon as she left the room, Gloria and a few others rushed in. They seemed so calm, I didn’t think anything of it. They told me that they needed to adjust the monitors. I turned all of the way on my side, and then to my back, as they searched. I started to feel a bit scared. More people came in and someone threw an oxygen mask on me. They told me that I needed to breath deeply. I was checked one more time (I was called COMPLETE and +2!!!) and an internal monitor was placed on baby’s head. The midwife yelled “Well baby just made up his mind for you!”, which was not true because I had asked for the c-section right before that. Anyway, they started getting my bed ready to go and I was freaking out. I thought I had lost my baby. I thought he was dead. No one was telling me anything, and chaos was happening all around me. Right before they wheeled me out, I grabbed M’s hand. He told me everything was going to be okay. As they are rushing me down the hallway, I’m bawling. I felt so sick to my stomach and scared. I was hoping that it was all a dream, it felt like a dream. The doctor was going over the risks with me, as her and a handful of other people flew me to the OR. When we got there, they stopped my bed right next to the operating table. They told me that I really needed to get on it. So without even knowing how I did it, I jumped with numb legs onto the table. I just knew that I needed to be fast and there was no time to waste. They did a quick ultrasound and said his heart rate was in the 30′s. That was the first thing I heard the whole time about the situation. I knew he was still alive, but for how long? I was checked to make sure I was numb enough, and I was. So the surgery started. It was literally a few seconds till I heard “baby is out” and I heard the sweetest little whimper. He was okay. I breathed a sigh of relief but was quickly brought back to fear as I hear “complete uterine rupture!”. Really? You have to be kidding me. The only thing that I was told over and over was so rare, actually happened to me? The doctor was yelling as she was operating “what is this?!”, “is this cervix?”, and even “where does this go?”. Everyone was just in awe. I begged them to save me. I had two little boys who needed their mom. I had to live for them. I continued to beg, and to cry. I started to pray. I needed strength, I needed to live. I was getting IVs put in both wrists, on the bottom sides of them. It was extremely painful, but my arms were being held down by other people so all I was able to do was cry some more. It was then that the anesthesiologist took off my oxygen mask and put another one on. I asked him if that one was oxygen as well, he said yes. I was then put to sleep.

I woke up at around 3 pm to people all around me. I was confused, but soon remembered what had happened. Before I even said anything, they reassured me that my baby was okay. That he was fine, but he was in the NICU. I can’t even begin to explain how much joy and relief I felt at that moment. I was freezing and as soon as I was able to talk again, I asked for a whole bunch of blankets. My throat was so sore from the breathing tube they put in, and my voice was so raspy. I wasn’t in the regular recovery room, I was in a big empty room with empty beds along the walls. One of the nurses went to get Michael. He told me about our baby. He showed me pictures, and I cried some more. They had him in the NICU for monitoring, because he was shocked at birth and wasn’t breathing. Which was understandable. Johnathan Samuel was born at 11:52 am. Weighing 7lbs 7oz and 20.5 inches long. I found out that his heart rate dropped to the 40s, out of nowhere. The heart monitors saved his life. And when the doctors cut me open, they didn’t have to cut my uterus to deliver him. There was a huge hole in my uterus. His arm, cord and body were hanging outside of my uterus, in my abdominal cavity. My entire previous c-section scar had opened and the rupture extended down all of the way through my cervix and into my vagina. The surgery took almost 3 hours, but they were able to save my uterus. I had an in-surgery consult with urology, because there was suspected injury to my bladder. Everything turned out fine with that though. I experienced uterine atony on the table and lost a lot of blood. I was injected with a shot of pitocin directly into my uterus, which caused my uterus to contract and stop bleeding. I received two blood transfusions and one bag of plasma while asleep.

After I spent awhile in recovery, I was taken back to my L&D room for about an hour. My dad was in there waiting for us. M had called him while I was in surgery. He stayed for a bit, but didn’t go see Johnathan because he was getting over a cold. At around 6:30, I was finally wheeled down to the NICU. A place that I never thought I’d see again. I had promised myself that I’d do everything possible to prevent another birth like Alex’s, but it happened anyway. I saw my sweet little baby asleep in his bassinet. He needed help breathing for a few hours, but  by the time I got to see him, he was fine. He did have an IV in because I was running a teeny tiny fever during my labor, and they wanted to treat him just in case. His cultures all came back negative though. The nurse handed him to me and I started crying. I couldn’t  believe he had pulled through. My true miracle baby. Everyone was looking at me with a sad look in their eyes. I’m assuming everyone had heard that I had a UR, because all the nurses in the NICU took time out to tell me congrats. I was so in love with him. He looked a lot like his big brother, just perfect.

 

 

I tried to start skin to skin contact as soon as I could, even though he was already almost 7 hours old. I offered him my breast and he actually latched on. I cried again as he nursed like he was starving, like he was so happy to have me holding him. After having breastfeeding fail with Alex, I really wanted to make it work this time. Even after all we had just went through, it was still a very magical moment.

We are so beyond thankful to have our little blessing with us today. Because I know he was so close to death, and a lot of other moms didn’t have the outcome I did, with such a huge rupture. I just can’t wrap my head around how lucky we were. There was a lot of survivors guilt there in the beginning, when I was in contact with other UR moms who’s babies passed away. Why did Johnathan survive? I’m 100% sure he had an angel watching over him that day. The whole thing brought a lot of emotional pain, trauma and questions. Why did this all happen to us? What did we do to deserve that? I grieved over the fact that I was told not to have anymore children. That was very hard to hear. Not only did my VBAC fail, but I was never allowed to try again. When all I ever wanted was a positive birth experience. It was a ton to process at one time. That one thing that is so rare, happened to us. It was unbelievable. I’m very very very thankful for the staff who were on-call that day. He was born 12 minutes after the first sign of rupture, and that was almost not even fast enough. Thee longest 12 minutes of my life.They all worked so fast, with minimal “decision to incision” time. I couldn’t have asked for better doctors or nurses. I have realized that even though my baby survived, UR is not something you can just get over. The scars are not only physical, but emotionally as well.. if not more.

Now, Johnathan is a happy and healthy 10 month old baby. He is such a joy to be around and a complete mama’s boy. We have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship still, and I am so thankful for that. I can’t imagine life without him. His big brother, Alex, just adores him. I have had the best time watching them grow into being best friends, and I’m excited for our future together as a family. I thank God everyday that he’s here with us. As for me, I’m still working through the pain. I still think about it all everyday, and often replay my story in my head. Trying to figure out where I went wrong. I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. There are so many things I would have gone back and changed. BUT, there was no use thinking about all of that now. And I’m still in the process of learning how to make all of that stop.


Jun 19 2013

Tiyama’s Story: Castiel’s unexpected VBAC (after a classical scar)

2012 was a very bittersweet year for our family. In the late spring of 2011, my husband ended up being diagnosed with unexplained secondary infertility. There were some decisions to make, and after a lot of thought and heart to heart chats, we felt the choice we made was right for us. We decided on sperm donation, and began trying that August. We were on cloud nine when I found out I was pregnant a few days before Christmas.18 months and then the help of a sperm donor, two pink lines and the word “pregnant” on a digi test!!! By late January, I found a midwife team that saw no reason why I couldn’t vbac with a classical scar and happy to have me as a client. I’ll never forget how elated I felt, me, under the care of home birth midwives. A water birth during the summer, what could be better? :) What we didn’t see coming was a cervix too weak to remain closed. My water broke at 20 weeks, I prayed for a miracle, to somehow see my little one through and keep him inside my womb. That miracle didn’t come, Azriel was born on 4/14/12 at 20.1 weeks and lived just long enough for us to say goodbye. When he left, so did my hopes and dreams for a home birth, a water birth and the midwife I had searched for, for so long and finally found…
I spent my time going between researching cerclages and planning Azriel’s memorial. By early August, I had my mind made up. Since no OB or MFM specialist I spoke with agreed to place a transabdominal cerclage for me in my state (California), I found one who would in New Jersey and at cost! :D The thought of having a cervix that would never take another child from me filled me with hope for trying again, I felt my prayers were answered and could just focus on my little guy’s memorial. I had the rest of the year to mourn and heal, or so I thought.. On August 10th, I had to go to the ER for severe lower abdominal pain. Despite being a Friday, I was brought in straight away, gave them a urine sample and placed in a bed. The doctor *thought* he saw something on the ultrasound screen and also told me they should have my results from the urine I gave very soon. I was told the pregnancy test was negative but he would order another ultrasound by an actual technician to get a more accurate picture. While I was waiting for the ultrasound department to call me in, a nurse came in to check on me. She was at the computer and causally mentioned my test was positive. “What test?” I was puzzled “The pregnancy test,” she replied. I stared at her just as the doctor came slowly through the curtain looking very sheepish. “I’m so sorry, ” he said, “it’s the nurses that usually read them, I figured I could help give you an answer a little quicker but I didn’t wait long enough. It’s my fault. There is a second line though.” “It’s still pretty faint but a line is a line.” The nurse piped up with a smile. ?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????? <—— in my head. How could this have happened?? DH and I had made love once and was told without ivf it wasn’t likely we’d get pregnant on our own, I even laughed when birth control was mentioned by one of the many high risk OBs I’d spoken to a couple of months before. Pregnant? Eventually, I got the ultrasound and a blood draw and by the time the results of both were back, I had a new ER doctor. He spoke to the OB on call who told him the cyst they found sounded like a corpus luteum cyst, although larger than usual, was normal and would most likely resolve itself. Beta was 165, was told that was a bit low and I had to go back to be checked for doubling numbers.
The numbers kept climbing and the journey of a new pregnancy began. Though shocked, DH was elated, his miracle baby was on the way! I was far from elated, I was scared and felt like a cruel joke was being played on me. It was then that the faith I had in God shattered, was he serious, putting a sweet little life in a womb that was attached to a piece of sh*t for a cervix? Why steer me toward support groups that helped me find my TAC surgeon, knowing I had to save up the $5000… I had the chance to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy. WTH?! I became a different person as the weeks went on, I grew more and more bitter. I snapped at anyone who tried to tell me things would be different this time around. How could they possibly know that? I felt trapped into getting the cerclage I had wanted to avoid. I went with the perinatologist in the practice who’s plan for me was a 12 week cerclage placement, 17P shots and bi-weekly monitoring. He was the least annoying care provider in the practice but it didn’t save him from me. (I’m sure my chart has really colorful code words describing me as a patient.) A lot of my rage was directed at him and he got an earful at every appointment. I had to leave the IC support group I had joined, I couldn’t take the posts full of hope, positivity and the faith they seemed to have in their care providers. Not that they shouldn’t, I was glad for them but I felt so out of place. I had none of those feelings. DH tried everything he could think of to help me feel more hopeful, but he couldn’t. I felt like a failure and was sure our journey wouldn’t end with this baby coming home either..
My saving grace was my Special Scars group. I hated being that way and thankfully, my SS sisters offered lots of love, support and listening ears. :) A package arrived in the mail from a dear SS sister that contained two very important books, one was a bible and the other was a book called ‘I Will Carry You’ by Angie Smith. I was instantly drawn to that book and started reading. Many, many, many tears later, I finished the book and felt sad but inspired. I was still frightened of losing the baby but for now, we were together. I was carrying him and already my pregnancy was more than half over. The baby deserved positive vibes and I looked at the positives that had gone ignored. A loving husband that made sure I was in a wheelchair to get around, a cervix that was holding up despite my earlier protests and fears, a pretty easy pregnancy that had only a week of morning sickness, friends and a few family members who cared and were very supportive, the couple of friends going through their own high risk pregnancies making sure they checked in with me. I started repairing my relationship with God as well, with the help of an e-book called Rainbows and Redemption and decided to rejoin the IC support group.
By 28 weeks, I smiled in the Perinatologist’s office for the first time and it surprised him so much he commented that it was really nice to see. My next thing to tackle, since it had been brought up by the Peri, was the birth. I had convinced myself that there was no hope for so long, I didn’t bother seriously thinking that far ahead. Since I took home birth off the table, I had to truly look at the possibility of a c-section, truly take it seriously for the first time. The idea of a vbac in the hospital wasn’t very appealing but I would try if I had no other option for a positive c-section. The most important thing to me became a positive environment, being so close to the one year mark of losing Azriel, I didn’t want to have to fight. I had heard of family centered c-sections before and I knew if I had to go that route, I wanted that kind of an experience. I searched online and found a wonderful e-book ‘Make the Most of Your C-Section’ by Mindy Brouse. I made an appointment with my regular OB to discuss it. I armed myself with info from the book, as well as an article regarding the use of clear surgical drapes and info about waiting until 39 weeks for delivery. By the time I saw my OB, I even had contact info from the OB and midwife mentioned in the book (thanks to Mindy) as well as the director of anesthesiology that implemented the clear drapes in his Boston hospital. He was impressed by the amount of research I put in and didn’t see any reason to disagree with a family centered c-section. The only disagreement was the week for delivery but we settled on a compromise of 38.6 weeks. He promised to work on getting the perinatal services director to look into the drapes and clear a couple of things with the anesthesia department, with a tentative date set for the 11th of April. He also asked if he could keep copies of the articles I brought in, so he could refer back to them for future patients and I told him absolutely yes!
At 35 weeks, I had my last 17P shot and it was time to remove the stitch. With the help of twilight sedation in the OR, it was a successful removal after a very painful attempt in his office the day before due to scar tissue. The Peri tried to convince me that I wouldn’t make it to April at all, let alone the 11th and to reconsider my c-section date because I was already 3-4cm dilated. I refused, 3-4 was typical for my cervix and with all the scar tissue, I wasn’t worried about sudden labor. Good news came in by week 36, everything was in order for a family centered c-section, including the drapes I wanted. Everything was all set for 4/11/13 at 9:30 in the morning. I felt at peace for the first time in a long time. On Easter Sunday, I caught a terrible cold. Thanks to a garlic lemonade recipe from a great friend of mine, I was feeling better by the following Sunday (4/7) just had a cough to deal with. It was still concerning so I called my midwife/doula, R to ask her opinion, she said if it was still very bothersome by 4/10, I should have the surgery rescheduled. It wasn’t my fault I got sick and coughs/colds don’t have cures, you just have to deal but not along with major surgery if at all possible. I completely agreed and continued the lemonade.
4/8/13: That afternoon, irregular contractions started and by evening, tapered off and stopped. On the 9th, the same irregular contractions started again, I paid them little attention. All day and into the evening, an hour here, 20 minutes there, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 2 hours, ect, no real pattern and assured my husband that a trip to the hospital wasn’t necessary. By 8pm I was happily watching Hart of Dixie and didn’t notice any contractions, I figured once again they most likely tapered off. At 9pm, I started watching the new episode of New Girl, our Tuesday night routine :) when suddenly a contraction hit. This time however, the location was different, instead of just feeling it in my stomach, it seemed to start really low like near my cervix, moved to my bum, up my back and around my stomach. 5 minutes later, the same thing and every 5 minutes after that. At 9:30, I called R to see what she thought, I was pretty sure they weren’t a big deal but just in case… She answered on the second ring and I was in the middle of describing what was going on and if early labor could have a pattern, when another contraction hit, I had to breathe through it. She said early labor can have a pattern, and from the sound of things, something was definitely going on. “Do you have a plan in place for a vbac?” R asked and I said I didn’t, we both burst out laughing, as here I was most likely in labor. She offered to come and check my cervix, if I felt up to it, I decided to let her. I trusted her completely and felt it would help me make a more informed decision on what to do next, she was on her way. I hung up and no sooner had I done that, a much stronger contraction came over me. I moved into a modified downward facing dog position, that didn’t help. I made my way to sitting on the toilet for a little bit, that brought some relief so I stayed there. I told DH R was on her way, he then became superman suddenly. Before I knew it, the kids were being organized, I could hear him fishing my hospital bag out of the closet, and constantly checking on me in the bathroom. Eventually, the toilet wasn’t helping so I grabbed a towel and moved to the living room. I placed the towel on the floor (don’t ask why) and sank to the floor. WORST IDEA EVER!!! I was stuck there, howling like a wounded wolf engulfed in wave after wave of strong contractions. R arrived just before 10pm, DH let her in and she immediately went to my side after placing her midwife bag down. She spoke soothingly to me as DH went to check on the kids. Once a contraction came to an end, R said “I’m ready to check you whenever you’re ready.” I told her to go ahead and do it right then before another one came back. With a gloved hand, she checked as gently as she could. I fully expected to hear still at 3-4cm but instead she replied, “you are 8-9 sweetie”. “What? Are you sure?? The scar tissue… I can’t be.. I really am that far, my cervix isn’t broken?” I was shocked. “Our bodies can surprise us sometimes, can’t they?” she smiled and gave me a hug. I started to feel sick after another contraction and began to throw up, thankfully she had prepared for that possibility and had a bucket nearby. “That’s a good thing, your body is too busy laboring to digest,” she rubbed my back reassuringly as I kept vomiting . When my husband came back out to check on me, R told him that it was time to go to the hospital. I was progressing fast and we needed to get going. DH called my mom, since I was too sick to do it myself. R helped me get to my feet just as the boys came to wait in the front room. I wailed as another contraction came, my 6 year old kept asking what was wrong. R explained simply that his mommy’s body was working hard to bring his little baby brother or sister into the world. DH came out of the room, dressed, bags in hand and with some clothes for me. R and DH helped me get dressed and we started down the stairs, just as my mom pulled up. The boys got into her car and DH and I got into R’s, my mom called out to us that my sister would meet us at the hospital. We all hit the road just after 10:30pm.
The freeway ride was a smooth one and we made it to Kaiser. It gets a bit hazy as I was in a world of pain, a wheelchair was brought over, we got to L&D, I signed admission papers and brought to a room. Someone, mostly likely a nurse asked how far apart my contractions were and I had no idea, mostly groaned in response. R had left to park her car, there was a delay in DH coming to the room with me at first but once he came in, R was right behind him along with my mom, sister and our boys. R handled the staff beautifully as DH was focusing on me, making sure I was okay. I was given a quick check and was almost completely dilated, with water still intact. The nurses were pretty laid back, there seemed to be no real rush, no immediate IV, just an efm placed on my belly. The on call OB came and introduced herself, tried to ask me questions but I couldn’t really answer her. Between DH and R, she seemed satisfied with their responses and said she’s be back in a little bit. I was in agony and begged R for drugs. It surprised DH but R wasn’t at all, she just gave me a knowing smile and replied that the only thing that would make me feel better, was having the baby. I was doing great and didn’t need them. It wasn’t long before my chart was pulled up to reveal my history. Amazingly, no sudden panic or drama, just matter of fact “oh, a classical scar.” Dr. W came to my side to inform me of my “risks” but also stated that, everything looked fine with me and baby. Even though in her opinion a c-section would be best, I had already labored and was at 10cm at that point, I would most likely deliver before they could finish setting up the OR. What did I want to do? I told her I wanted to try to push. She mentioned if baby took too long to come, I would have to go through with the c-section, which R did not like how that was phrased but it didn’t bother me. If anything started to go wrong, I agreed to a section. “Well then, let’s have a baby!” She asked if I was comfortable in the position I was in or did I want to be a bit more vertical. I wanted to move so she said as soon as the nurse got the IV placed, I could. The nurse blew out 2 veins in my hands, which pissed off my husband, before calling another nurse to place it. The second nurse placed the IV on the side of my wrist, it worked perfectly and then I was free to move into position for pushing. My sister took my 6 year old outside since he started getting upset, my 10 year old followed, leaving our oldest to watch. The first nurse instructed me to grab both legs, my mom said no way, that I would tear for sure and I insisted I couldn’t, so no leg holding. The OB asked permission to break my water, I said okay and….. All the memories of how pushing felt came rushing back, I screamed and pushed. I stopped, crying that it hurt too much, I couldn’t do this!!!! “Yes you can, you are doing this!!” R encouraged me and the next push created a freight train, I couldn’t stop pushing even if I wanted to. I screamed the entire time and soon heard everyone calling my name over and over. I opened my eyes to everyone’s smiling faces, heard a small gurgled cry and felt a warm and wet baby on my stomach. Castiel Inias was born at 11:30pm on 4/9/13 at 38 weeks and 4 days, 6lbs 9oz and perfect. He had a short cord so he couldn’t go up to my chest immediately. The OB asked if I wanted DH to cut the cord, I asked if it had stopped pulsating, she said it had but I looked to R for confirmation, she smiled and nodded. DH cut the cord and I lifted him to my chest, he latched perfectly once he started looking to nurse. It felt so surreal, from questioning if I was even in labor to holding my sweet baby boy, all in 2.5 hours. I declined his bath during our stay and requested a form to keep my placenta. Both wishes were respected without issues. R promised to take my placenta with her so she could encapsulate it for me. R stayed with me for the rest of the night, as DH went home with the boys. I asked about going home the next day, and was told if all looked well for baby and I, we could. By the evening of the 10th, Cass and I went home and we all began to settle in as a family of 6. :)
I still can’t believe I had a vbac, even 2 months later. I could not have done any of this without the love, encouragement, wisdom, support and friendship of my SS sisters. I started this journey in a really dark place, this group lifted me in ways I can’t put into words. I love you all very much! My sweet little Azriel, thank you so much my love, for allowing us to have you in our lives, even if for just 20 weeks. Your sacrifice saved your little brother and I know you will continue to look over him and us, until we meet again. We love you and miss you. Castiel is doing very well and is so loved by his brothers. He’s a mama’s boy already and DH barely gets to cuddle him lol. I do believe, had I made it to my c-section date, it would have been a positive experience. In the end, I’m just grateful that Cass made it to us, decided to come when he was ready and chose a great day to be born.