We are sharing two birth stories in one today! Whitney, co-owner of Nashville Doula Services, shares about her first birth which was an emergency cesarean, followed by her VBAC birth with her second child. With each of her births came growth, transformation, and gratefulness.
With my first pregnancy, I knew I wanted a natural birth, but was not yet comfortable with the thought of home birth, so logically I decided I would choose to go with the local midwifery program that delivered at a big hospital in town. Their model of care completely reflected my personal goals and things I felt were important: A low-technology, high-touch philosophy of care, with much belief in the woman’s body and it’s ability to give birth without intervention. My husband Michael and I did a minimal amount of preparation, including attending the hospital birthing class offered at the hospital. We did not hire a doula, mainly to save money. My husband was confident he could help me through labor, and I agreed. If I was with a midwife group, and they are experienced in natural labor, why would I need a doula anyway?
When “labor day” arrived, I progressed rather quickly for a first pregnancy, and a few hours into labor I definitely needed help getting through the contractions, so we headed to the hospital. The hospital was hopping that night with women in labor and I only saw my midwife for a few minutes because she was catching other babies. ☺ When I arrived I was 4 cm dilated, and pretty soon after being checked in I was begging for pain relief. My sweet husband tried to help me through the contractions but they were coming hard and fast and he didn’t really know how to help. We were basically hanging on for dear life, not really knowing how to handle these waves of intensity that were sending me over the edge! When the anesthesiologist arrived and administered the epidural, I felt so much better – but in a matter of 10 minutes everything would drastically change.
As soon as I started to feel relief from the epidural, my baby started to go into fetal distress. After multiple attempts to get his heart rate stabilized, I was quickly whisked away for an emergency C-section. I was devastated, terrified, and my poor husband was left in the labor room by himself while they got my baby out as fast as possible. Michael was fearing the worst, understandably. My precious midwife Lauren was right by my side the whole time holding my hand, comforting me, and speaking life over me and my baby. I don’t know how I could have gotten through that 30 minutes without her! It was traumatic for us to say the least. We were so incredibly thankful that our baby was fine and healthy when he was born.
Our adorable Cole Huckaby Cantrell came into the world on June 23rd, 2010 and changed our lives forever as he taught us to be parents!
During my recovery and in the months to follow, I studied and researched all I could on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and natural birth. There was not a natural birth book I had not read. I read study after study on VBACs. I read all of the positive VBAC stories I could, and joined VBAC and natural birth support groups online. I came to the overwhelming conclusion that for a woman like me, a VBAC was not only do-able but it was a safe and healthy option.
When I became pregnant with our second child, we immediately hired a doula. I started going to a Webster certified chiropractor. I continued preparing my mind, body and spirit for a natural birth, prayed a LOT, and told myself every day that I could do it, and I was meant to do it! I spend many hours visualizing what I wanted the birth of my second child to be like.
My second birth was also in a hospital, but I had a different plan this time. My doula and all of my reading and determination had prepared us well. At 39 + 4 weeks pregnant I woke up to my first real contraction, and after a day of sporadic contractions, my water broke late that afternoon walking through Babies R Us grabbing the last couple of things we needed because we knew our baby girl was on her way. We had just checked out and were headed to the door and I felt a gush. I couldn’t see below my belly so I asked Michael, “Does it look like I just peed my pants?!” We were so excited! After arriving at the hospital, my doula Lauren had me walking the staircase in the Vanderbilt waiting room to get my contractions going, and after two or three journey up and down, my contractions started coming steady and strong.
I remember thinking that the contractions felt the same as with my labor with Cole, but I handled them completely differently. I now had the tools, and knew how to form the delicate balance of staying in control yet relaxing my body. I never once got into the bed, even while being monitored the entire labor as per VBAC policy at most hospitals. My nurses and midwife Claire were so incredibly supportive. Everyone was cheering me on. It really felt like we were all a team to bring this baby girl earth-side safely and naturally!
From that point I had a fast labor of 4 hours and only pushed for 8 minutes before our beautiful Our Bray Madeline Cantrell was born on December 28th, 2012.
It was one of the most amazing, empowering, beautiful experiences I had ever had. It seemed like the most natural and instinctive thing my body had ever done! Fear never once entered my mind. My baby even started breastfeeding right away, all on her own, and nursed until she was 2 and a half years old.
Soon after my amazing birth experience, I felt a strong desire in my heart to help educate and help other women achieve the kind of birth they were meant to have, and the kind of birth they wanted to have. I knew that there were many, many care providers out there that would never give women a reasonable chance to have VBACs despite ACOG’s (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) guidelines. I was VERY fortunate enough to have been with a midwifery group that did nothing but encourage me and tell me over and over that I could do it, and a TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean) was a safe and healthy option for me.
So after my two completely different births, doors began to open for me to attend births of my friends, and I began studying to become a doula. I started officially taking on doula clients and in my first year as a doula I attended 40 births, and my second year I attended almost 80! It was without a doubt the path I was supposed to take. It has truly been an exciting ride. Even though each client is special and the journey with each one has been absolutely amazing, I have especially loved educating and supporting my VBAC clients.
Sometimes I just want to pinch myself – I’m so incredibly blessed to get to support women and their families through their pregnancies and births – what an honor! I am forever grateful for BOTH of my birth experiences, without which I would not be a doula today.
One day soon I will tell the story of my third baby, Asa. But that is for another time. 😉