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!

World Breastfeeding Week 2015 featuring Lara B.

"World breastfeeding week is a way for everyone (not just breastfeeding moms) to come together to recognize and support the awesomeness of breastfeeding. I think so much more needs to be done in the U.S. to support families who breastfeed. Dads, grandparents, siblings should all be celebrated because sometimes in a breastfeeding journey, it really does take a village!"

"I absolutely love the bond. The quiet and peace I feel when she's in my arms nursing is something I can't describe to people and am so grateful to have experienced. I had to have an emergency csection and didn't get to hold her for over 12 hours and couldn't nurse her for 24! But the second I held her skin to skin and she latched, she looked at me like "hey, I know you. I like it here". I love that I can comfort her in a way that no one else can. "

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"I can't stress enough how important I think paid maternity leave is. I had to return to work at 10 weeks...to a job as a nurse, working 12 hour shifts overnight. Keeping up with pumping while taking care of patients was incredibly difficult. I had to start supplementing my daughter way before I was ready because I just couldn't keep up with my supply while being away from her for so long. I think more women would continue breastfeeding longer or exclusively breastfeed longer if we allowed women to be with their babies for longer than 6 weeks!!"

"My "baby" turned one yesterday! I never had a goal and I'm glad about that. I always thought we would do it as long as it worked for us and I'm very happy to say it's still working for us!"


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!