Like with our first son, August, we planned a natural home water birth. This was going to not only be a VBAC, but my redemptive birth experience from the potentially fatal birth I had with August. Month by month we continued to plan the water birth and I was checked and rechecked to make sure that my placenta was in the proper position and that I would not again suffer from a placenta abruption.
At 36 weeks everything was picture perfect. No issues with my placenta. We were about to receive our birth pool. Everything was looking great. Because I had August at 38 weeks I assumed (naively) that I would again give birth at 38 weeks. Well, 38 weeks came and went. I thought to myself, “it’s okay, I’ll probably have her next week”. Then 39 weeks came–nothing. 40 weeks came knocking and I thought, “well ain’t that a… nevermind”. At 40 weeks I was so frustrated and dramatically felt like I was going to be pregnant for the rest of my life.
Fast forward to 40 weeks and 2 days– Sunday. My mucous plug had come out and contractions finally started and I began leaking amniotic fluid. I was so happy I could have danced. In my mind Axel would be in my arms that night. My doula came over to our house to check in on me and to drop off some things for my birthing room at home. When she saw me she said that I probably wouldn’t have my baby until the next day or Tuesday. I remember thinking, “Tuesday?! TUESDAY?!” Frustration and disappointment hit me like a ton of bricks.
I continued to have contractions all day Sunday and on Monday they became really intense. I immediately texted my midwives and doula letting them know that it was “Go Time”. I guess what I should have said is that it was sloooooooooowwwww time. I labored hard all Monday night making very little progress. My midwives and doula were extremely encouraging but I couldn’t help feeling like I was failing. My body and mind were exhausted and I went through many periods where I felt like I just could not do it anymore.
My water officially broke at 2:45am on Tuesday and I was dilated to 10 centimeters a couple hours after that at 5:30am. Again, I believed that in a short amount of time I would have my baby in my arms. This is when I really started to understand that God’s plan and our plan are really not the same thing. When we get so wrapped up in Plan A (which is what I tend to do) we’re unable to appreciate Plan B which oftentimes is just a remixed version of Plan A. Anyway, there I was fully dilated andddddd nothing. I’d push and push and Axel would be no closer to us. My contractions began to slow almost to a halt which stalled my labor at 10 centimeters for 12 hours. Yep, you read that right 12 hours!
By Tuesday afternoon, I was so incredibly disappointed and just so tired. I remember telling my mom like a sleepy toddler, “Mom, I’m tired. I’m just so tired.” My midwives and doula had me try several different things to help bring on the contractions that I needed but nothing worked. Finally, we made the decision to go to the hospital. I told my husband, “wow, I failed again” to which he replied, “no, you didn’t fail”.
My mom, midwives, and doula, caravanned with us 40 minutes away to the hospital. My midwives already had a great working relationship with an OB/GYN at the hospital and called ahead to let him know that we were coming. We got to the hospital and met with Dr. Glover who was truly a Godsend.
I was so exhausted from laboring I asked one of the nurses about pain relieving options. I was told because Axel was so low an epidural might not work, but she told me that I could have nitrous gas. I was told that the gas wasn’t as strong as what dentists offer their patients but it may help me handle the pain a little better. I opted for the nitrous gas fully expecting and hoping to be in “La La Land” for the rest of my birthing experience. Nitrous gas may work well for others, but I puffed and I puffed and I still felt every ounce of pain that came with contractions and pushing. Every.Single. Ounce.
Dr. Glover performed a vaginal check and told me I should have my baby girl within 30 minutes because I was fully dilated and she was in a +2 station (AKA she was ready to make her appearance). I was so elated! But, remember what I said about God’s Plan vs. ours? Well, let me tell you that I pushed for a whole lot longer than 30 minutes.
It was almost showtime, but before then I did a couple practice pushes with my midwives and felt confident to start pushing for real. So, there I was excited and ready for that next contraction that was going to bring my baby girl to me in 30 minutes or less. The contraction came and I pushed with everything I had–nothing happened. I thought, “Okay, don’t get discouraged this was just the first push she’ll come out within another few pushes”. Another contraction came and I pushed with all my might– nada.
My midwives reiterated exactly where I needed to push and I felt like I finally understood and was ready once again to push this baby out. We waited for another contraction and I pushed. Everyone in the room got so excited and told me they could see her head and she had a head full of hair. I thought, “Yes! I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!” I pushed a few more times and finally asked my Mom if Axel’s Head was out. She told me that not only was Axel’s head not out, but it wasn’t even close. What was happening was that while I pushed, her head would begin to emerge and then it would retreat after I finished pushing. At that point I had been pushing for about an hour and I felt like I had nothing to show for it.
Enter utter disappointment once again. At this point I was so tired I kept thinking to myself “I cannot do this. I just can’t. I’m tired and what I’ve got to give is just not good enough to push this baby out.” Thank God for the encouragement I received from my birth team because when it came time to push again all I could hear was, “Yes, Lauren!” “There you go!” “That was the best push yet, do it again!” I used the words given to me as motivation to give every push everything I had and more, and that’s exactly what I did. With each contraction I would bear down and I pushed so hard I thought I was going to explode. After each push, my mom would be at my head ready to give me a swig of water like a boxing ring man in my corner. I’d take a sip, take a breath, and PUSH! I repeated that process until I could literally reach down and feel Axel’s Head emerging. Once I felt her head I knew it was on. I knew that if I pushed the way that I needed to I’d meet my babygirl in a matter of minutes. I waited for the next contraction to wash over me and again I pushed. I pushed until I had absolutely nothing left, and then I pushed beyond that point. I felt Axel’s Head continue to emerge until the sting of the infamous Ring of Fire began to set in. Boy, what an accurate name. It hurt like you wouldn’t believe but I was too close to let a little burning stop me. I kept pushing. Finally, I heard the sweetest words I’d heard all week: “the head is out”. Yes! I gave it a couple more final pushes and out she came. My beautiful baby girl was born and we immediately heard her sweet cry.
I could not believe it. We did it! After being in labor for well over 24 hours. After having my labor stall at 10 centimeters for 12 hours. After trying position after position to try and move Axel down the birth canal. After praying and crying and praying some more my baby girl was here! Everyone in the room was completely overjoyed and in that moment I could not have felt more blessed. I thank God for the journey that was my childbirth and I thank God for showing me not how strong I was, but how strong He is. It was through Him that I was able to birth Axel and I couldn’t be more proud or thankful.
Check out some photos from our journey below:
I tried to focus on remaining as calm and relaxed as possible. It may look like I’m sleeping, but I was actually just riding the intense waves of active labor contractions.