Doula bucketlist birth, VBA2C

As a doula and birth photographer I have a bucket list. For instance, attending a birth on my own birthday (Yup, did that, my 21st birthday!), natural twins (Yup), VBAC (yup, three times). A VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) was one that had not been checked off the list, until now.

Jackie called me just a month before her due date in a super last minute search for a doula. She explained her story through the phone and I immediately knew I wanted to take on this birth. I then met Jackie and her husband, Ryan, at a nearby Panera and we hit it off! They were awesome! Just an hour later Jackie said that she wanted to hire me as a doula. I was so excited to work with them and I had a good feeling that this mama was going to have her vba2c!

Jackie's first c-section was what her care provider considered "failure to progress" after an induction. Her second c-section was due to a heart condition that her son had and would need to be operated on immediately following birth. But, Jackie felt that her body was not broken and she wanted the experience of having a vaginal birth, or to at least try. She had never gone into labor on her own and was nervous that she wouldn't be able to.

Her OB/GYN practice gave her an extremely hard time and strongly advised against it. There were two doctors in the practice that said they would allow her to at least try, but the other doctors were pretty adamant about her scheduling a repeat cesarean. One of the doctors in her practice told her that she better not go into labor while he was on call. But, Jackie and her husband weighed the pros and cons, and decided they would do whatever it took to have a safe vba2c and if another cesarean were to happen, it would because of medical necessity.

Jackie had been calling her practice to ask questions and schedule appointments with the Ob/Gyn's that she felt most comfortable with, but they were not returning her calls and kept scheduling her with a nurse practitioner who was unable to answer her questions about the delivery. I suggested to try and find a more supportive care provider and consider switching. Even though she was about 35 weeks, I wanted her to have the support she deserved. She met with another Ob/Gyn in the area who was extremely supportive of her choices and said that he thought she had a really good chance of having a vaginal birth. But, unfortunately he could not take her on because the practice that backed him up refused to do a VBA2C.

This mama was determined. Which is why I had such a strong feeling that she was going to get this vaginal birth, one way or another! She was doing everything from chiropractic, acupuncture, eating dates, drinking raspberry red leaf tea, going on long walks, etc. The more information she read the more she felt confident. As her due date got closer, so did the pressure from her doctors. She refused to schedule a repeat cesarean and had to sign legal documents from the office saying that she was going against medical advice.

Jackie was 40 weeks and had been doing acupuncture daily to try to induce labor. She was getting exhausted and a little nervous she wouldn't be able to do it, but still stayed strong.

At 40 weeks and 4 days she texted me and said she thought she was having contractions and had her husband drive her to acupuncture that day. Throughout the day she kept saying she was contracting, but nothing serious yet. Until the early evening. She texted me and said, "These are getting intense. I'm going to have my mom come and get the boys now." Not long after she texted me that her water broke and they were off to the hospital.

I started putting my baby down for bedtime and her husband Ryan texted me and said she was 3cm, I told him to let me know when they wanted me to come. Not even 20 minutes later, Ryan calls me. 

"Hey Sam, Jackie wants you now if you could come. The pain is really intense. She wants an epidural." (I hear Jackie GROANING in the background) It certainly didn't sound like she was 3cm, that sound was quite familiar! She was bearing down, so I quickly got the rest of my things together and was turning on my ignition when Ryan called again, "Sam! Come quick! She's pushing!" "She's pushing ?! I'm on my way!" I sped to Virtua, and ran up to labor and delivery. She had just enough time to get an epidural and was close to crowning by the time I had gotten up there. Guess who was on call? The Ob/Gyn that said, "You better not go into labor while I'm on call." But, that baby was coming and it wasn't via cesarean!

Just a few pushes and baby Avalon was born! I don't think the epidural even had time to kick in. Jackie was in complete shock. It was so intense and ridiculously fast, but she did it! Ryan and her were over the moon, ecstatic (and of course I was too)! Having a VBAC, let alone a VBA2C at Virtua Hospital is RARE, but Jackie proved that it is possible & so worth the try! A few weeks later when I did my postpartum visit with Jackie she still couldn't believe she did it & Ryan was in shock of how amazing a vaginal birth could be! It was a total different experience for him to be apart of. 

Thank you Jackie & Ryan for letting me be apart of your journey.  It was a beautiful birth and I was so happy to have made it!

The birth of Shea 8/13/14

I was excited to work with Lindsay & Matt after they were referred to me by their Bradley method instructor. Although this baby was a bit of a surprise, Lindsay absolutely knew she wanted a natural birth. They were originally planning on delivering at Virtua Hospital, but after telling them about the midwives at Gentle Beginnings & the water birth at Elmer Hospital they began to re-consider their options. At around 32 weeks, Lindsay & Matt met with Karen Shields, a midwife with Gentle Beginnings, & decided they would be changing not only practices, but hospitals as well. Here is their birth story...

At around 10:30, Sunday morning (8/3) Lindsay texted me and said she had began to feel contractions when she woke up, but nothing serious. Around 1, Matt called me and said that they were going to head to the hospital soon as things were starting to get a bit more intense & seemed to be progressing quickly. I told him to call me once they got checked into the hospital and I would head over whenever they needed me. At 2:30 pm Lindsay was checked and 3 cm dilated. I arrived about an hour later and she was handling her contractions beautifully! They were coming strong & consistently, but she was staying calm and let her body do the work. 

Matt was super eager to meet his baby boy! He stood by Lindsay's side the entire time, keeping her comfortable and hydrated. He was definitely a dad-doula, which made my job super easy. Lindsay was getting more back pressure and although she was still able to talk through the contractions, I could tell that they were becoming much more intense. There was no doubt that she was progressing.

Ironically, the position that Lindsay felt least comfortable in during her Bradley classes (side lying) was the position that she stayed in the most during her entire labor. At 4:45, Lindsay started feeling lots of pressure. She said her contractions were getting much more intense and she started to become more vocal. She would moan through them and this was a sign that she was progressing really quickly! We all watched Lindsay in awe of her strength and despite the moaning through contractions, she still remained so calm. 

The midwife on-call, Lindsay (yes her midwifes name was Lindsay as well), asked if she wanted to be checked to see how much progress she had made. At this point it was 5:45 pm, only 4 hours after they arrived at the hospital.  

Lindsay asked not to know how far dilated she was because she did not want to fixate on the number and get discouraged. But, as soon as the midwife checked her, her face lit up with a big smile. She said, "I can't believe this mama, but you are 9 1/2 cm and the baby is -1!" Both Lindsay and Matt looked shocked, they couldn't believe that she was almost fully dilated so quickly. At this point Lindsay was ready to get this baby out! Nothing could comfort her at this point, no position, no massage, nothing. So they suggested getting into the tub. 

Lindsay was planning on a water birth, she had LOVED being in water during her pregnancy. She loved to take baths and she figured it would be the ultimate comfort measure during her labor. But, at this point the water made no difference. She had no urge to push and she just wanted to start pushing. About an hour later, Lindsay sat on the toilet, where her water broke with clear fluid and she began to feel the urge to push. The midwife sat by her side, she gently coached her through pushing and monitored the babies heart rate. 

After a good 45 minutes of pushing on the toilet, the midwife suggested to get back on the bed. Lindsay walked on over and was on all fours. Suddenly the baby was showing signs of distress and the nurse immediately put an oxygen mask on Lindsay.  She was pushing with everything she had in her, but the baby needed assistance. The midwife called for the on-call OB/GYN to come in and he suggested a vacuum assisted delivery. 

Nurses came rushing in and all of a sudden the perfectly calm room was filled with anxiousness. I could tell Matt was worried about Lindsay and the baby, but I assured him that it would all be okay. With a few more pushes, an episiotomy, and assistance from the vacuum, baby Shea was born healthy!

Although this labor took a little bit of an unexpected turn, Lindsay and Matt were just glad that their baby boy arrived healthy (and it didn't hurt that he was super cute also). Shea weighed in at 7 lbs 13 oz. I am so totally still inspired by Lindsay's strength and courage, she did such a beautiful job which makes my job so worth it. Matt & Lindsay congrats on becoming parents, you're going to do a wonderful job!

The birth of William Douglas Jr. 7/15/14

I first talked to Melissa when she was around 32 weeks or so and living in Hawaii with her husband, Doug, who was in the military. Doug was starting his residency for anesthesiology at Penn and they would be moving back to Jersey just a few weeks before her due date. She had found my website and was looking for a birth photographer, but also loved the fact that I was a doula. After talking to her on the phone we both agreed that we would be a good match and scheduled our first pre-natal visit for when they would return to Jersey. 

In a short amount of time we developed a great relationship. I was excited to work with Melissa, Doug & her outgoing mother who would also be an active participant in the birth. Melissa, who was once a pageant girl, was planning a natural childbirth, eating her encapsulated placenta, and exclusively breastfeeding. Just goes to show, there is no "type" of person that hires a doula or plans on having a natural childbirth or eats their placenta. She used the Bradley Method classes as a preparation and attended routine chiropractic appointments. As her due date, July 12, came and went she eagerly waited the arrival of her baby boy. Melissa did everything under the sun to start labor.

As midnight hit on July 15, I got the "I think my water just broke" text, followed by, "I just had a contraction". Melissa's mothers water had also broken at midnight and she delivered her just 5 short hours later. I went to bed because I knew I would need my rest. Around 3:30 AM, I got a call from Doug saying that Melissa had thrown up and they were probably going to head to the hospital soon. I got to Elmer at 4:30 AM and walked back to her room. 

Melissa was having contractions back to back, there was no break. At 4:45 AM the midwife came in and checked her. Melissa was 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced. She said she was exhausted and continued to labor on. 

I used the rebozo on her for a little. But, she was finding that nothing was comfortable and was beginning to get tired quickly. She was staying hydrated and as she went to the bathroom she decided that nothing was more comfortable than sitting on the toilet. 

An hour after her first initial exam she looked at Doug & said, "I need the drugs. This is not a test." Doug & I tried everything to comfort her, but not much later she was begging for something, anything. She just needed something to let her rest, at least for a little. I got the midwife and we all told Melissa that she was strong and able to to do this. She assured us that this was what she wanted. At 6:30 AM she was checked again before getting a dose of morphine and was 4 cm dilated. We asked her again if this was definitely what she wanted and told her it was a low dose and wouldn't take away all of the pain. "Doug, this is not a test, this is not a drill. I need it." Fifteen minutes later she was given her first dose and another dose would be given 30 minutes after. 

She immediately felt relief, but it was far from being numb. As Melissa said, "It took the edge off." We let her know that even though she got the pain relief she was still strong and not to feel bad for getting them. If that's what she says she needed, then that's what she needed. She sat on the birth ball and got some rest, but still felt the contractions. At 7:30 AM she got the second dose and took an hour long rest. 

Two hours later the morphine had completely worn off and she was ready for her next dose. The midwife came in and checked her again at 9:30 AM and she was 7 cm dilated. She told her that it was best not to get another dose of morphine at this point and suggested getting into the tub instead for pain relief. While the tub was filling, the nurse rolled in the warmer for the baby and it all became very real. Melissa's eyes filled with tears, she knew the end was near. 

At 9:45 AM she was in the tub and by 10:00 Melissa and Doug were passed out. The water completely relaxed Melissa and she comfortably went through transition with no pain medication. 45 minutes later she was moaning, she felt the urge to push. I forgot to mention that the maternity ward was completely packed. The waiting room was converted into a labor and delivery room & the rooms in a different wing were being used as labor and delivery as well. The midwife was delivering another baby at the time so the nurse told Melissa to get out of the water and she would check her in the meantime. Melissa sat back on the toilet where she felt most comfortable and began moaning louder. She was trying not to push until she got checked, but the feeling was unbearable. 

Her midwife Jane came in and by 11:15 she was in bed pushing. As soon as the midwife gave her the OK to push Melissa's face lit up. She could not wait to finally meet her baby!

Her mom eagerly watched as her only daughter pushed out their first grandson. She had a smile from ear to ear the whole time with the video camera recording. Doug gave Melissa the emotional and physical support to get her through & she pushed with everything left she had in her. 

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Melissa pushed and pushed. Jane told Doug to get ready to catch his baby & he immediately put on gloves and stood next to Jane as Melissa was crowning. 

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After 35 minutes of pushing baby Will was born! Doug & Melissa both hysterically cried as they laid eyes on their precious baby boy. 

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An incredibly rewarding moment! Melissa was in labor for 11 hours and 45 minutes from when her water first broke at midnight. Even though it wasn't the 100% natural water birth that Melissa had planned for it was still absolutely perfect. She worked super hard to get her 8lb 5oz baby boy out. 

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Melissa & Doug, thank you so much for letting me be apart of your magical day.