Friday, August 26, 2011

The Top Five Utterances of My HBAC

Welcome to the First Carnival of Birth Reflections.  This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Birth Reflections hosted by Patti at Jazzy Mama and Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts that reflect on how birth has transformed them into who they are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

After the emergency cesarean birth of my first child, I was convinced I would attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean the next time around.  At my six week postpartum appointment, I was nonchalantly informed by the OB/GYN that no hospital or doctor would allow this.  It was soon afterwards when I started planning my home birth after cesarean (HBAC).  A waterfall of new experiences showered down on me during my HBAC and I found myself uttering things I never said in my first birth; here are the top five.
5.  “I need my birth sculpture.”
When I bought the book Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, in preparation for my first birth, I found the initial - extremely long - part on birth art a little hokey.  Drawing crappy pictures is going to help me prepare for my birth? OK.  I never finished the book.
When I pulled the book back out in preparation for my second birth, my HBAC, I tried to have an open mind.  I made a couple of sketches and this sculpture:

I warmed the clay in my hands for a long time while I thought about the message I wanted to convey.  Before long, I had a soft, smooth roll about 8 inches long.  It had a prefect, polished look.  It reminded me of the umbilical cord that was providing nourishment to my baby at that very moment.  But I frowned as I held it up at both ends and watched it sink in the middle; it was so weak.  
Starting in the middle of my roll, I began to gently twist the clay around and around, forming what looked more like rope.  The roll became shorter, fatter, bumpy, and rough.  It also became stronger.  It wouldn’t bend as easily as its smooth counterpart.  I pushed the two ends together and my piece was complete - a small, simple circle, containing a smooth, peaceful half and a strong, rough half.
After I baked my birth art I kept it by my bed for the rest of my pregnancy.  I would pick it up, rubbing the bumpy and smooth grooves, contemplating the birth that would soon come.  I wouldn’t try and plan individual details; I would imagine the feelings and emotions I hoped would surround me.  
I cradled the sculpture in my hands during most of my labor.  Sometimes I would lean on the counter and study the lines and grooves.  Sometimes I would massage it with my thumbs as I paced the bedroom.  It now has a place of honor in my nightstand.  I no longer consider birth art hokey.  Birthing From Within now holds an important place in my birth story.
This certainly isn’t an unusual phrase to hear during childbirth, except I never had a chance to say it the first time.  Looking back on it, I am overwhelmed by how urgent and confident that phrase sprang from my lips.  I certainly didn’t need anyone to stick their hands inside of me to tell me I was ready to push.  “Try and stop me,” more accurately described the situation.
The fact that I never got the chance to push during my first birth sparked an emotional and determined flame in me that burned like the ring of fire.  It is a flame that still burns today and a big reason why I write about my births.  Sometimes it felt like I had to push everybody in order to get the birth that I wanted.  
I had to push away doctors and hospitals who told me I couldn’t even attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean.  I had to push my husband, who was understandably hesitant at the thought of a home birth.  I had to push myself to find a suitable midwife in a sea of OB/GYNs.  I had to push my own pediatrician who just had to comment about how scary she thought home births were.  I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed.
After a very long year of pushing my way towards the birth I craved, I pushed my 6.4 pound baby girl out in less than ten minutes.  I guess I had gotten pretty good at pushin’.  
3.   “Don’t turn that off!”
Oh, no she didn’t! As I was heaving myself up onto the bed so I could push my baby out, my midwife went over to the T.V. and turned off the Grey’s Anatomy DVD that had been playing throughout the three hours I had been in labor. Oh, yes she did.  
I was not happy about it.  Judge me if you must, but I am an avid T.V. watcher.  You could say that having the television on during my birth was my “focus item.”  It was soothing; it brought me familiarity and comfort.
So... yeah....  I yelled at my midwife.  But, they’re used to that... Right? She took it well.  And turned the T.V. back on.  
2. “NOOOOO!”
While we’re on the subject of yelling at the midwife... I like to think that I’m a pretty assertive person in my everyday life.  I don’t know what it is about a hospital, but whenever I find myself in one, I also find myself turning into a complete pushover.  
Even after spending nine months painstakingly planning my first birth, I let my plans fall right through the cracks the instant I walked through the automatic doors.  Get in bed -- Okeedokee.  Wear this monitor -- right-e-o.  Time to get in the tub -- yes, master.  Don’t stop here to have your contraction -- give me drugs! You need to have a c-section, sign this -- is this my fault? Do they pump some kind of brain-numbing gas into the air or something?
I certainly wasn’t consciously thinking about any of this during my HBAC.  I did, however, find it much easier to say no.  Would you like to get in the shower, Leah? -- Noooooo! Every time you push you are pushing her head out, do you want to feel? -- Nooooooo! Chuck, do you want to come catch the baby? -- Noooooooo! I guess I thought my husband needed some help asserting his feelings as well.  
I didn’t take it too far though.  After I had been checked, by request, and was at 7/8 centimeters and started feeling pretty tired, Katia again suggested I get into the shower.  This time, I heeded her experienced advice.  Less than ten minutes later, I was screaming, “I HAVE TO PUSH!” (See #4)
1.  “I did it!”
Yeah, yeah, yeah.  It’s cliche, it’s cheesy, it’s corny.  What can I say? Birth is corny.  And cheesy.  It’s also beautiful, powerful, natural, instinctual, gentle, hard, painful, and unique.  Why wouldn’t I be so proud of having accomplished something that wonderful that I shout out the first thing that came to my mind?  There is a plethora of emotions that can be felt when someone lays a newborn baby on your chest, still wet from the womb and still connected to you through a pulsating, life cord.  At that moment, this cheesy phrase is the only thing my brain could push through my lips. 
It’s also true.  I did do it.   And I’ll cherish every memory of it for the rest of my life.

You can read my full birth story here.

Carnival of Birth Reflections
Visit Jazzy Mama and TouchstoneZ to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Birth Reflections!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

***This post was originally written under my previous blog name, Zen and the Art of Cloth Diaper Maintenance.***


  1. Oooooh, that photo of you and your newborn just takes my breath away!

    I was really interested in what you wrote about your birth sculpture--how you would hold it while you meditated on the feelings you wanted to experience at the birth. That idea really resonates with me. Perhaps somethimg I'll consider doing next time?

    Thankyou so much for sharing your story in the first Carnival of Birth Reflections.

    Joy to you,

  2. Haha, I like that you were assertive for your husband, too. :-) I've never heard of birth art, but it intrigues me. I'll have to think about that if God sends me another little one!

  3. I love VBAC stories, hoping for one myself. Congratulations momma! :)

  4. Ha! Great story, full of honesty and wit. I love that you had the TV on. The TV was on in my hospital room too, though not by my choice. I didn't even realize it was on until after my son was born and then I was like, "Wait- the TV was on!?" haha. I think it gave the NICU team something to do while they were waiting to take my son. ;)

  5. Thank you for sharing this for the Carnival! I may have to take some inspiration and write about the things I say during birth, apparently I crack a lot jokes...

    I had the same impression of the Birthing From Within Book. But, like you, I put it aside and picked it back up when it spoke to me. I drew with mushy pastels, me peacefully floating in water with my baby spiraling in my tummy and out. Hands, lots of hands surrounding me in support, yet drawn back. Birth art is a powerful focal point.

    My favorite description is the "waterfall of new experiences showered down on me during my HBAC and I found myself uttering things I never said in my first birth" This is such a delicious image. I feel like I was with you in your memories as you spoke about your top five (and I'm curious what the others were. Perhaps a part 2?)

  6. Leah, yay for home births after traumatic hospital ones!! I can completely relate to your observation about being so confident in general and then becoming so compliant when in a hospital. This still baffles me. Great post!

  7. Heh heh! This was pretty funny, especially the fact that your focus item was the t.v. :) I had some trouble with the Birthing From Within book as well. However, it did speak to me eventually and although I was not able to utilize birth art, I love seeing what you created.

    Your pictures are so sweet too! They illustrate your birth experience so well. Thank you for a great take on a birth story!

  8. Lovely, Leah.

    This part about the birth sculpture and feeling into what you hoped for really spoke to me...

    "After I baked my birth art I kept it by my bed for the rest of my pregnancy. I would pick it up, rubbing the bumpy and smooth grooves, contemplating the birth that would soon come. I wouldn’t try and plan individual details; I would imagine the feelings and emotions I hoped would surround me."

    Yes, you did it! The utterances are funny, I enjoy your writing style - thanks for sharing. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...