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 Francesca 8/15/15

I met with Darlene & Joe shortly after I delivered my son. Darlene was the first to inquire about my doula services after my maternity leave would be over in September.  I could not wait to work with them after leaving our consultation! Even though she had a great experience for her first birth, she knew how important it was to have a doula and was also looking forward to the birth photography. Darlene had wanted to switch to Elmer Hospital in hopes of a water birth, but was unable to because of insurance reasons and had to make the best of Virtua hospital in Voorhees. 

I wasn't even on-call yet and I heard my phone vibrate around 3:30am on August 15, 2015. Luckily, I was awake! To my surprise, it was Darlene, who wasn't due for another 4 weeks...

"Samm... contractions are about 4 mins apart for the last hour or so. Calling the hospital now." 3:38am

"They are intense now. Difficult to breathe through and I am needing to remember to relax... and its taking a lot of effort to do that." 3:58am

"Heading to virtua soon..." 4:09am

When Darlene checked into triage the resident asked her multiple times if she wanted pitocin or an epidural even though she had made it clear she wanted to go natural from the beginning. She was afraid that the medical staff was going to be unsupportive since she was unable to develop any time of relationship with a care provider prenatally. But, after she got upstairs and into her labor & delivery room they left her alone for most of the time.

Once I got to the hospital I saw that Darlene was doing an amazing job. She was able to hold full conversations in between contractions and she was in control of her birth space. Her labor progressed beautifully and although she was exhausted she stayed strong. The support from her mother & Joe was unbelievable and I was able to do more photography. 

Darlene's mother was a doula (no, she wasn't a certified doula, but she was definitely a natural), she knew exactly what to do and what to say and what she needed throughout the entire process. It was beautiful seeing such a bond between mother and daughter. In all the births I've been to, I've never seen anything like it!

Around 11:00 am or so, Darlene asked to have her water broken artificially after being 6cm for a few hours. After her water was broken the contractions got much more intense. An hour later she started having the urge to push, she started pushing uncontrollably in hands and knees on the bed. When the nurse checked Darlene she asked her to stop pushing since she was only 7cm and did not want her cervix to swell, but Darlene could not stop pushing. The nurse looked at me and said call the doctor! But, there was no time... Darlene pushed her baby out & into the nurses hands within a matter of minutes. It was the nurses first catch ever!

It was great being back in the birth world and such a beautiful birth to be apart of. Thank you Darlene & Joe for letting me be apart of your big day!

Being on the other side {Homebirth of Indy}

I'll start by saying my birth was fucking awesome. For months I told myself it was going to be extremely difficult and painful, just because I wanted to expect the worst. But, what I experienced was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. It was the craziest natural high that I didn't even know was possible. I wish more women could say they enjoyed their births as much as I enjoyed mine. When you're pregnant you hear a million horror stories, and everyone says "get the drugs, don't be a hero". Of course it was painful & intense, but so incredibly worth it. There's seriously nothing like it. Giving birth truly shows you just how strong you are, no matter how you do it, natural, epidural, c-section, home, or hospital.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

I thought about this day long before I even found out I was pregnant. After having the privilege of attending several births over the past two years, it was finally time for me to attend my own.

Prenatally I followed all of the advice I give my doula clients. I got routine chiropractic adjustment & acupuncture, did squats and kegels, drank raspberry red leaf tea, took evening primrose oil, etc. I'd like to think it all helped me have a smooth pregnancy in labor. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. But, it certainly didn't hurt.

My due date {April 10th} came and went. Everyone was anxious/excited besides me. "Is the baby here yet?"/"Any signs of labor?" HOLY SHIT did I want to turn my phone off. I was in no hurry for my baby to come, I was enjoying quality time with my dog and sleeping in until 2 in the afternoon. My thoughts were: why should I be so excited about extreme sleep deprivation & being a human cow? From being a doula I knew how stressful the postpartum period could actually be and again I anticipated the worst, just in case.

Saturday, April 18th, I woke up and went to the bathroom several of times like I had been for the past few weeks. Around 5:30am I felt a little crampy, but went back to bed. I remember the sun starting to rise and I couldn't sleep so I just sat in bed uncomfortably and tried to find a comfortable position. Johnny woke up (kind of) and asked if I was okay, I told him I was in early labor, but he could continue to sleep.

7:01am the "cramps" were getting more intense & I had to pee again. I told Johnny to call his boss, today was the day. I texted Morgan (doula) & Tammy (birth photographer) and said,"Morning mamas! In early labor... Having ctx for 2 hours, nothing major. I'll keep you updated when I head to my grandma's house." I went upstairs to pee and GUSH, my water broke all over the floor. It wouldn't stop, it was all over and I had no towels to clean up. I texted Johnny & said "Bring me up towels, my water just broke all over the floor." I texted my midwife and got in the shower. The hot water felt great, the cramps were gone, but I knew I couldn't stay in there too long. I got out of the shower and there were no damn towels. I called Johnny twice, no answer. I ran downstairs only to find him dead asleep still. "Wake up! We need to go!" As soon as I got out of the shower and to my bedroom, I was in labor land. My contractions were strong and close together.

"Water broke half hour ago, ctx are close together. Heading to my grandmas now, I'll let you know when I'm there." -8:15am

"There like super close, every 2 mins, maybe closer." -8:25am. I put on a robe & slippers. Told Johnny to get my hard boiled eggs out of the fridge and went to the car. I was totally dreading the drive to my grandma's house in Philly, but I was so excited to get there. He quickly packed up the car with clothes and stuff for the week, our dog (Roofus) & beer. The car ride was hell, I could not wait to get into the birth tub. I sat in the car in hands and knees and I just remember Roofus' hot nasty dog breath in my face the whole time, EW.

I quickly got out of the car and waddled my ass upstairs to that tub. Tammy & Morgan were already there and the midwives assistant (Wendy) was on her way. I got in the tub, which wasn't even done filling up and sat inside. FINALLY! I was in my beautiful birth space, this was really happening.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Several of people were coming in and filling the tub with boiling water from downstairs and Morgan sat with me as Johnny brought in all of our stuff from the car. He set up our record player and all I wanted to hear was Dark Side of the Moon. My contractions were coming strong and consistent. I couldn't believe I was in labor, it still didn't feel real. When Wendy arrived she checked the heartbeat, which was perfect & mentioned that the tub had to be hotter, so I got out and went into the shower as I waited for the birth tub to fill up with the hot water.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

 

Once I got out of the shower, I came back into the bedroom and threw up all over the bed. ALL OVER. Usually I'm not grossed out by throw up, but it smelt disgusting, like no other throw up I've ever smelt. I knew this was a sign things were progressing though, so I remained optimistic. After I labored for a little longer, Wendy asked if she could check me. "Watch me be 1 cm dilated", I thought to myself as she checked me (which wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be). I was 5cm, and baby was doing good with a strong heartbeat. It felt good knowing I was 5cm and this was the real deal. I continued to labor on the bed for a little where Morgan did the hip squeeze on me and it felt AH-MAZING. Then I got back into the tub, which was SUPER hot after it was all filled with the boiling water. Johnny got in with me and I would not let him take his hands off of my hips.  It was hard to get comfortable at this point, no position felt good. But, that hip squeeze was EVERYTHING.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission  All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permissionAll images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

In between contractions I felt great. I could hold conversations and was fully aware of what was going on around me. I told Johnny to put on our Ravi Shankar vinyl which was incredibly relaxing. Although, as soon as a contraction would come on, I would moan & grunt "Fuuuuuccckkkkkkkk this" & "Nooooooo". Morgan encouraged me to say "Yes" instead of no, and at first it felt really ridiculous and strange. But, it did make a little difference. I remember Johnny putting on the Rolling Stones vinyl we had, and every song made sense to me. Especially 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'. After Karen (midwife) arrived and monitored me for a little, she suggested I get up and go to the bathroom.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I LOVED the bathroom. I didn't leave it for the next 4 1/2 hours. The toilet felt amazing. Never would have thought that the toilet would be my favorite place to labor. Johnny massaged the back of my neck and I relaxed as much as I could in between contractions. As one would come on I would stand up and moan REALLY, REALLY loud. It's true, your body knows exactly what to do. I thought that I for sure had to be in transition. I could not fight the urge to push. As much pain as I was in, I never once thought "I can't do this." I just let my body take over and exactly what it was meant to do. I kept thinking about how smoothly everything was going.

Wendy suggested the birth stool, which I hated at first and immediately got off and went right back to the toilet, but it eventually grew on me.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I asked Karen if I was close and she said to check myself. I stuck my fingers up there and didn't feel anything. OH MY GOD this is going to take forever I thought.

 A little later, I asked what time it was because I was now really feeling the urge to push. This baby was bearing down. It was around 2pm, when Wendy checked me again. 10cm!  I was ready to officially push! My contractions came and went and I pushed with them & the breaks in between were like ecstasy. I pushed and pushed and pushed.

I had been pushing for at least 1 hour at this point and it was just Morgan and I in the bathroom. Johnny was napping on a chair outside the room with Roofus. I looked at Morgan and said, "I would never want to be numb for this. I can't imagine having an epidural." I was in the most intense part of labor & couldn't imagine how I would push if I were numb. Although it was painful, it was nothing that my body couldn't handle.

 

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All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was now almost 5pm, I checked myself again and I felt the head! I wasn't crowning, but I knew I had finally made noticeable progress. YES! Finally! The end was near. Karen and Wendy came back into the room soon after and everything got real. This baby would actually be here soon. I kept grabbing the hand held mirror to see where the head was at and boy was it close. As the head came closer to crowning my vagina felt dry like a freaking desert. I wanted a constant flow of olive oil squirted on it. At this point they woke up Johnny and told him to come back into the bathroom.

I tried hands and knees, the birth stool & finally side-lying position.  Side-lying seemed to be the most effective position so Karen had me stay like that. As the head started to crown I so badly just wanted to push the whole damn thing out, but I knew I couldn't so I continued to ease it out and push only with contractions. What an incredible feeling! The ring of fire was INTENSE, but also really awesome.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I was pushing with every ounce of energy I had left in me. My ass! HOLY SHIT, MY ASS! I remember saying, "Jesus f***** christ my asshole feels like it's going to rip open!" just before the head came out. As the head came out it was such a huge relief. I felt another gush of whatever amniotic fluid was left and Karen kept saying, "Mama you gotta push, you gotta push this baby out. You've been doing such a great job!" But, I was literally giving it my everything and all of a sudden she had me turn over and into hands and knees. What a crazy feeling, switching positions with the entire head hanging out of me.

The shoulders were stuck & the body wasn't coming out with my pushes alone, so she manually had to stick her entire forearm into me and pull him out.  Another crazy feeling! Having the entire body plus my midwifes arm up my vagina... As I felt the shoulders and body and then legs come out of me I knew it was all finally over. I FUCKING DID IT!!! Immediately I felt a insane rush of emotions. I looked at Johnny and asked him if it was a boy or girl and Johnny said, "It's a boy!" I instantly started crying and he did too. Another magical moment!

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

He needed to be resuscitated and his shoulder was a little banged up since he did have a pretty severe shoulder dystocia. But, I knew everything was going to be okay. Karen just kept calm & said, "Talk to your baby mama." It took a bit, but then he finally let out a cry and I held him in my arms, skin-to-skin.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

After the birth, I felt complete euphoria. I had blood ALL OVER me, my ass felt like I shit out a bowling ball, but NOTHING could bring me down from this high. It was such a surreal moment in time. During the "golden hour" everyone had left the room (besides Tammy because we have these beautiful photos, but I really had no idea she was even in there with us), Johnny & Roofus had joined the baby and I in the bed. Everything was perfect. I immediately started sobbing because I was so beyond happy. This was our family. This was love.

Roofus wasn't originally in the plan to attend the birth. But, just a few days before my due date I saw photographs from a home birth and a german shepherd just sitting next to the mama in the birth tub and it was beautiful! Roofus was my baby, I couldn't NOT have him there and I'm so happy I changed my mind. He stayed by my side the entire time and was even in the room as the baby was born. Roofus was an important part of my birth team.

My birth was the perfect example of how a birth team works together. Everyone did their thing and together they created an incredible experience for both me and Johnny. An experience I will definitely never forget. I have a whole new level respect for birth work and cannot wait to attend my next birth as a doula!

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Anyways, Karen called Justin (my chiropractor) to come out and check/adjust the baby. So he came out and offered the birth team adjustments, it almost felt like a party at this point. Everyone started cleaning everything up, Johnny gave everyone beer, we had the record player playing good music. This was a real birth day party.

After the baby was adjusted, it was time to take his measurements. Justin bet that the baby was 9lbs 4oz, and I thought he was joking. NO WAY IN HELL did I have a 9lb 4oz baby... I thought at MOST I would have a 7 1/2 lb baby. They put him in the sling and said he was 9lbs exactly. HOLY FUCK! My jaw dropped, I was in serious disbelief. How did 5'0', 100lb (pre-pregnancy) me have a 9lb baby? If I would have known he was going to be that big I would have said see you at the hospital after I get my epidural! (Kidding) But, now I was even more in shock that I did it! I could NOT believe it... (Still can't and it's been 6 weeks)

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All things considered, my birth was pretty "easy". Actually, let me rephrase that! Giving birth is not easy in any way shape or form. It was both physically and emotionally challenging. It was a trip, that's for sure! But, for giving birth naturally to a 9lb baby with a severe shoulder dystocia as a first time mama, I'd say it went extremely smoothly. I wouldn't have changed a damn thing.

This is oxytocin. This is home birth.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Credit to Tammy Bradshaw Photography for all of these beautiful pictures. I've found these photos so inspiring that I am seriously considering becoming a surrogate. If you are considering a birth photographer for your birth, do it! I will forever treasure these photos, they are absolutely priceless to me.