With the coming birthday of my second son, Ezekiel, I thought I would share his birth story and all that we went through to achieve our VBAC. Below is a short video of Gabe’s and my journey to a VBAC followed by a written version in more depth. If you chose to read, be aware that it is long. I couldn’t help it. This part of our lives tested our faith and proved to us how much God is in control.
Our Journey to a VBAC
It’s been a year since I’ve had my VBAC and looking back everything is such a blur. My only hope in writing this birth story is that other women would be encouraged and excited to birth their baby naturally in order to achieve a successful VBAC. The joy and excitement of birthing a baby vaginally is beyond words but know that the road is a tough one that our bodies were made to endure. In other words, anyone can do it through faith, education, and an excellent support team.
My first son was born on June 17, 2006, after 41 hours of labor. Much of that was pre-labor; however, my contractions were consistently 5-10 minutes apart for the entire length of my labor. I had no idea what was going on and found myself at the hospital two times before my OBGYN promised me that my son would be born that day. My intentions for my firstborn was to have a natural childbirth without the use of interventions. After 35 hours without sleep and my nurses praising the use of the epidural, I finally conceded and took the injection into my spine. As soon as I was bed bound, my doctor broke my water and quickly started me on Pitocin to speed up my contractions. I quickly dilated from 4cm to 8cm; however, I started to feel tremendous back pain. I later found out that my son was in a posterior position. When my doctor saw me in a lot of pain he quickly explained to my husband and I that if we did consent to a c-section soon, I would most likely end up needing an emergency c-section. At that point in time, my husband and I were tired and frightened, so we agreed. I was quickly taken into the operating room and at 5:16 pm, my son was born. I was able to see him briefly but with all the pain killers running through my body, I was unable to really be there. The next day I felt a deep sense of loss.
I couldn’t figure out why this happened. What went wrong? My doctor was in such a hurry that he told the anesthesiologist that if he couldn’t numb me within ten minutes, he would have to knock me out! (Dr. Patton, Women’s Health Services, Des Moines, Iowa) Why was he in such a hurry on the most important day of my entire life? The only consolation I was given was that I should be thankful that my newborn and I were both safe and healthy. Thank God for technology, right? I ended up with the baby blues that lasted for about 3 weeks. I couldn’t put anything together. I feel that I lost the first three weeks of my firstborn son’s life.
In July of 2007, I excitedly found out that I was pregnant with my second child. This time, when my husband and I found out we were expecting again, our first question was not, “I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl?” or “what should we get for the nursery?” More importantly, our first question was, “how is this baby going to be born and who is going to deliver him/her.” I knew I didn’t want to undergo another c-section. I wanted to be able to look down and see my baby be born and then swoop him/her into my arms. I wanted my husband to be there to witness the birth of his child and then cut the baby’s cord. From my past experience, I knew I did not want to go to my previous physicians so I started to call around. After a couple of calls, my hopes and dreams of having a natural and vaginal delivery were being crushed. The doctors I had called would not even consider me having a trial of labor. Their response was, “once a c-section always a c-section.” I started to question if maybe I needed to just schedule another cesarean and be done with it when my husband reminded me of my desires. We prayed together and I then remembered a friend from church having used a midwife to deliver her child. A midwife sounded kind of scary to me at first. Would she be knowledgeable and well experienced to deliver a baby? Aren’t doctors with all of their technology and medicine safer? I started to research and found the website of Dana Ericson, Midwife and Doula Services. As I started reading through her site, I immediately saw the difference between the midwifery model of care and the medical model of care. I was learning that my body was capable and meant to birth naturally. I was reminded that being pregnant is not a sickness that needed fixing; rather, I needed to be responsible for my own health through nutrition and exercise to encourage a healthy pregnancy and birth. I immediately called Dana Ericson and scheduled an appointment with her. After hearing my story and reviewing my medical files, she was very much in favor of my having a VBAC and started to question the reasoning of my first cesarean. She explained that the risks of uterine rupture are not any more significant than the risk of a subsequent cesarean. Furthermore, she told me that if I was planning on having more than two children, subsequent cesareans are riskier. However, In the Des Moines area, she explained that she couldn’t actually deliver my baby since I would be attempting a trial of labor. In order for her to do this, the hospital would have to have an Obstetrician on staff 24 hours a day in order to perform a necessary cesarean if needed. Hospitals in Des Moines do not provide this. So she explained that she could perform all of my prenatal care up until 38 weeks and would then transfer me to a group of physicians she works with. She would then transfer roles from midwife to doula in order to be by my side during the labor. After having had a terrible experience with my previous provider, the last place I wanted to be, was in the hands of another OBGYN. With this setup, I would at least be under the care of my midwife for the first 38 weeks and she would then continue to be with me all the way to delivery. I agreed. She let me know right away that if she was going to be my health provider, I would have to follow her instructions on how to care for myself, optimally. We were going for OPTIMAL health not adequate is what she always said. She then went into nutrition. Nutrition? For my first pregnancy, I was never explained that what I put into my body could actually help or hinder, not only my baby but the actual act of giving birth. I was never told that I needed to eat 80-100 grams of protein a day and that by the third trimester I needed to be consuming 4 quarts of water a day. Wow, the blinds over my eyes were starting to let in some light. After leaving her office, I was very excited and at peace; however, I started to ponder about her questioning the reasoning for my first cesarean. Why would anyone question a cesarean?
Our Maternity System
Wow, was I ever astounded at our maternity system once I started to dig deeper! Dana Ericson referred me to our local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) group. This group of ladies are knowledgeable about our failing maternity system. Almost every board member has had a cesarean followed by a successful VBAC. These ladies were able to explain a bit about our system and how hospitals and OBGYN’s are in the business to make money. If any hint of liability arises, you are quickly rushed into a cesarean. Also, the horrific use of interventions followed by more interventions is what has raised our cesarean rate to 31%. 1 out of 3 women has a c-section! Why? The use of epidurals, Pitocin, and inducing labor is a risk factor that can lead to an unnecessary cesarean. At my first meeting, I cried when I started to tell the story of my first son’s birth. Every woman in the room was understanding and empathetic to the loss. I wasn’t looked at like, “hey, It’s just a cesarean.” They understood what I was feeling and they were there to offer suggestions on what I could do to have this next baby vaginally. First of all, they suggested the book, Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth, and to watch the documentary movie, The Business of Being Born. After reading Ina May’s book I was pumped and ready in mind and spirit to have a natural childbirth. After watching the documentary, I finally began to understand our system and why it’s so important to understand the implications of interventions.
By this time I was nearly 5 months and couldn’t stop reading about our broken system. I was also digging into the internet to find women that have had successful VBAC’s. Every time I saw a video on YouTube about a successful VBAC I would cry and be encouraged that I could it too; that my body could deliver a baby the way God had intended. At times, I would run into the whole uterine rupture argument and start to question having a VBAC but my husband would quickly tell me that he had faith and we would turn it all over to God. By the time I was 8 months into my pregnancy I finally realized that I had done all that I possibly could to have this baby vaginally. I kept up with a great diet, exercised, researched, read books about having a baby naturally and how to endure the pain and took a natural childbirth class locally (Before and After Birth with Amy Brooks Murphy). At this point, my husband and I gave it to God. We prayed and I knew that from here on out it was all in His hands. I started to keep verses near and dear to my heart.
Phillippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
Joshua 1:9, I command you-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Reality Hits Hard
At 38 weeks, I had my last appointment with my midwife and was sent to the Iowa Methodist Group for my 38-week prenatal appointment with Dr. Shaw. From speaking with the ladies at ICAN they reminded me to be strong and ask a lot of questions at my next appointment. I had to remember that some doctors were probably going to still try to talk me into another cesarean. I kind of went into the appointment ignorantly thinking I was going to go in and out without any hassles. Well, the first thing Dr. Shaw wanted to do was do a routine check of my cervix. I declined as I knew that by allowing a routine check it could open doors for them to give me an excuse that my cervix wasn’t dilating enough and that I would need to schedule another cesarean. She was a bit annoyed and asked if she could then just check my stomach to feel the baby. I allowed her to do this. When she felt my stomach she told me my baby seemed small and she wanted me to go in for an ultrasound. I declined this also knowing that in the last weeks an ultrasound is very unreliable. She was even more annoyed and told me she needed to do an internal pelvic exam to make sure my hips were adequate enough to birth a baby. Okay, by this time, I was pretty annoyed. I felt that she was searching for something to get me in for another cesarean. After declining the pelvic exam, she started asking me questions and soon found out that I had a single suture from my first cesarean and that my children would only be 22 months apart. The ACOG recommends 24 months. When she found this out, she went into panic mode and quickly pulled out her ACOG guidelines book and told me that my stats for a uterine rupture were very high and that I was a high-risk case and for that reason, she and her group would not allow me a trial of labor. If I were to deliver with her group it would have to be by cesarean section. I was crushed! I had worked too hard to have my OBGYN at the last minute tell me I wouldn’t be allowed a trial of labor. I honestly couldn’t believe it since arrangements for my attempt were already made between them and my midwife. My husband and I left the appointment in heartache and I immediately started to cry as we walked to our car. I was two weeks away from having my baby without a doctor to deliver him. My husband and I bowed our heads and prayed for strength and that the doors would be opened that someone would allow us a trial of labor. After praying I immediately called my midwife and she was in complete unbelief that this could have happened. She told me to go ahead and call the group of OBGYN’s in town that delivered my first son via c-section. I was horrified at the thought of going back to them but knew I had to try something. I called them and they told me that I was a great candidate for a VBAC; however, since I was already 38 weeks along in my pregnancy they could not take me in as a patient. I was too far along. Again, I started to cry. I did not know what to do. These are the only two groups in town that allow trial of labors. I went home with my husband and after talking things through we decided to visit the group and see if we could at least talk to them to see if they might reconsider. When we arrived at their office, only a nurse would speak to us. She told us that the best thing for us to do is go back to the first group that had promised us a trial of labor. I asked her, “Are you telling me that I should go back and schedule another cesarean after your group says I’m a great candidate for a VBAC?” She said yes. I started to cry then and there and pleaded with her to let me speak to a doctor. She told me they were too busy to see me. My husband grabbed my hand and we walked out.
I could not believe this was happening. Why did these doctors not care about our situation? Why were they forcing me into surgery when all I was asking for was a trial of labor? Why were they looking at surgery as no big deal! My husband and I were dumbfounded and just kept asking God for mercy.
At this point in time, my husband told me to get online and get some counsel from our ICAN group. The ladies were awesome! They were very supportive and couldn’t believe this was happening to me two weeks before giving birth. By 5 pm that night, I still didn’t have a doctor. I went to my sister’s house that evening for family support and time of prayer. My father was absolutely furious at these doctors and told me to not worry but instead to give it all to God.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and thanksgiving in your hearts let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
I was stressed. My father told me that I had to settle down. He reminded me that I was carrying a baby inside that could be affected by all of this. He didn’t want my baby boy to be harmed in any way. So we prayed again and I tried to set my mind on the beautiful baby boy inside of me.
When we got home, there was a message for me from the local ICAN web forum. I was told to try and contact the University of Iowa Midwives, explain my situation, and see if they would allow me a trial of labor. The University of Iowa is in Iowa City, which is two hours away from Des Moines. Gabe and I bowed down before the Lord and asked him if this was the direction he wanted us to go. Then and there we put away all of our fear and put our complete faith in Christ that he would find the perfect place for this baby to be born.
The next morning, I couldn’t wait to call. I felt that all of this was happening for a reason and that God wanted us to go to Iowa City. When I called I spoke to the nurse midwife, Laura. I explained to her my situation. When I told her everything that was happening, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She couldn’t find a reason why someone wouldn’t allow me a trial of labor. She told me I was an excellent candidate for a VBAC and she personally knew Dana Ericson and the quality of care she provides her patients. She told me she would have to speak to her midwife and obstetrician colleagues and would get back to me as soon as possible. I spoke to her at 8 am and by noon she had returned my call. She told me I was going to be under their care and they would allow me a VBAC! She told me since she knew Dana Ericson, that I could continue my care in Des Moines for the next week under her but would have to come in the following day to fill out some paperwork. I started to cry on the phone and as I hung up I praised my God for his constant watch over me. I felt at peace.
The next day my father drove with me to Iowa City and we met 2 of the midwives. I had never felt such warmth and compassion as I did with these ladies. They explained to me that all but one OBGYN in the building were female and that if we were to run into any problems, there is always an OBGYN on hospital grounds that could deliver via cesarean. The difference between speaking to Laura and Dr. Shaw was night and day. Dr. Shaw was busy, cold and ready to be done with her day. Laura was calm, excited and truly enjoyed the miracle of birth. I left that day feeling that someone cared about my situation and was going to do their best in helping me achieve a natural birth. This was God!
My Second Birth
A week and a half later, I started pre-labor; I knew right away as I started having tiny contractions every half hour or so. Being that we had to drive 2 hours away, we took no time in letting the family know that we were heading to Iowa City. Within an hour my entire family took off work, were packed and at my door ready to have a baby! It was great. I felt loved and was so pumped to get to my hotel and start laboring. Yeah, I was excited! Bring the pain! I wanted to see my baby’s face. I called my midwife Dana, and she told me she would meet me in Iowa City when contractions were getting stronger. My family and I spent the entire day in Iowa City. I started to worry that maybe the baby wasn’t coming and that all I was having were Braxton hick contraction. At any rate, I kept moving. My husband and I found a wonderful path in some woods and we hiked 2 miles. We prayed and laughed and had a great time thinking about our new baby. I was excited as my contractions started to get stronger on the hike. After our walk, my family went out to dinner and on Dana’s advice, she told me to load up on calories. I had a long road ahead of me and my body was going to need all the nutrients it could get. We went to HuHot, a Mongolian restaurant, and I ate a huge dish of noodles with beef, peanuts, and veggies. YUMMM!! My contractions were getting stronger but I was still worried that maybe it would be another day or so. We all went to the hotel and played in the pool. The kids loved it!
By 8 pm, my contractions were getting stronger. At around 2 am, I knew that it was time to go to the hospital. We left my oldest son with Papa and Abuela while Gabe and I headed off to meet our midwife and nurse. When we got there, everyone on staff was amazing! My midwife and nurse kept me moving and changing positions. They allowed me to labor in the tub since they had a portable baby monitor that was attached to my belly. My nurse took me from the toilet to the tub, to standing, to sitting on a ball, each time explaining to me that I had to keep my pelvis open to allow this baby to drop. She kept telling me how amazed she was at how quiet and peaceful I was. I kept looking up at her in disbelief. I was in A LOT of pain! Thank God to my support team of Amy Brooks Murphy, Dana Ericson, and the many books I’ve read, I understood that I needed to be relaxed; to open my bottom in order to allow this baby to move down. My husband kept giving me sips of water, juice, and bits to eat to keep calories coming in as my body was doing some major work. For about five hours, I labored at the hospital. At around 8 am, I knew it was time to push! It was amazing to me how my body took over and I had an uncontrollable urge to push! Something that is clearly missed by the thousands of woman under the epidural. It was almost a convulsion of, LETS GO NOW!!!! By this time Dana Ericson was with me, along with my sister Susie and my husband. Dana held my hand, looked me in the eye and told me, “This is your time; push like you’ve never pushed before!” With tears in his eyes, my husband kept reassuring me that I was doing it! My delivering Midwife, Paula, looked at me and said, “here he comes – PUSH!” I PUSHED!! I pushed to see my baby, I pushed so that my husband could walk over and cut the cord, I pushed so that I could snuggle my baby boy on my chest and feed him!
YOU DID IT!
My baby boy, Ezekiel Louis Bauman, was born VBAC on May 1st 2008. It’s such a blur at the chaos of events that happened shortly after, but I remember my sister crying in joy, my husband crying as he cut the cord, and I cried as I was the first person to hold my baby boy! The pain? I don’t even remember what it felt like. All I know is that this was the most remarkable day of my entire life.
Thank you to all the people that supported Gabe and I, in our decision to VBAC.
To my midwife Dana Ericson, I couldn’t have done this without you! Our community is so blessed to have someone like you defending what birth should be like and working so hard to fight the good fight! You are my inspiration!! Thank you for believing!
To Amy Brooks Murphy, thank you for taking us into your home and teaching us the value of a natural birth. You taught us so much and we will forever be grateful.
To the ladies at ICAN, your support and encouragement is beyond words. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for fighting. Thank you for being there!
To the University of Iowa Midwives, thank you for being compassionate, loving, and taking me in when no one else would!
To my family, I love you! Thanks for being so supportive!
To Gabe, You are my Rock!! I couldn’t have done this without you!
To My God!! Praise be to you!! I LOVE YOU!