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Laura's Birth

My VBAC was one of the most empowering moments in my adult life. My first child was born by cesarean in October of 1992. He was a footling breech and I had a scheduled c-section so I was never in labor. When my daughter's due-date approached just 15 months later, I became increasingly apprehensive. To prepare for my VBAC, I read extensively. I found the books "A Good Birth, A Safe Birth," and "The Silent Knife" (both available from La Leche League) to be particularly helpful.

As my due date came and went, I decided that perhaps the only advantage to a c-section is knowing *when* your baby will arrive! At 41 1/2 weeks (Friday, January 21st) my OB suggested that I consider an induction. I was scheduled for the following Tuesday, but of course we all hoped that the baby would be born by then. That afternoon I had my final prenatal visit and my doctor stripped my membranes in an attempt to stimulate labor.

Friday night we went out for dinner with our 15 month old. The restaurant we chose featured a fried onion appitizer that had a local reputation for encouraging labor. At that point, I was ready to try anything, so I ate part of the fried onion. I don't know if it was the onion or having my membranes stripped, but after dinner I started having painful contractions, three minutes apart. We went home, got our son settled with my parents and then headed for the hospital.

To my frustration, my contractions stopped shortly after we arrived at the hospital (9:30 p.m.). Throughout the night I experienced very painful but irregular contractions. In the morning I was only slightly dilated. The obstetrician on call checked me and suggested that pitocin be used to augment my labor. My waters began to leak about 8 a.m. and the pitocin drip was started at 9 a.m. My labor progressed slowly but steadily from then on. By late afternoon I found that the contractions really *hurt* and questioned my commitment to an unmedicated birth. I used a combination of Lamaze breathing and focused visualization techniques to help manage the pain.

During the late afternoon, the obstetrician checked me again and told me that my daughter was posterior. Perhaps that's why my labor took so long. Transition was like running a marathon. I had an image of myself lying on a sandy beach as labor crashed over me like the ocean. I was very focused on my body and how hard it was working to birth my child. I started to push 5:40 p.m. and my daughter was born at 7:25 p.m. She weighed 9 pounds, nine ounces.

As I reread this story, the simple retelling of what happened when doesn't really describe what happened. Laboring with my daughter was one of the most beautiful and spiritual experiences of my life but it was also the hardest thing I've ever done. Throughout the experience I was supported and upheld by the loving presence of my husband and my mother. I found it very helpful to have two support people because it meant that I was never alone. I also think that my decision *not* to have an epidural probably prevented a repeat section. Since I was able to move around freely I could push in a supported squat which helped widen my pelvic outlet (important if you birth big babies).

What I've learned from my last two births: (1) Be an educated health consumer (2) stay in shape (3) don't go to the hospital until labor is well advanced (unless there's a medical contraindication) (4) have people you love with you during labor (5) keep moving during labor, and, most importantly, (6) trust your body. Having a healthy baby is the most important outcome of any birth, but having an empowered birth is important too. If my second birth had ended in a cesarean, I would have felt confident that I had done everything in my power to birth my baby. I feel privileged that I was able to do so.

laura hankins, rn

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