Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The VBA3C Birth Story of Sammy

This story is not for everyone. If you're turned off by birthy stuff, just read this part: Sammy was born on 8/25/2012 @ 2:59 am. Baby & mama are doing great! 

For everyone else. Here's the whole story: 

Sammy's journey started 3 years ago when my 3rd boy was born under conditions that I felt were out of my control and unnecessary. 

#3 was a planned c-section. Long story short, I was put under general anesthesia against my will for the birth & wasn't awake when he was born. 

I decided that very moment I would never allow someone to cut a baby out of me again. 

This was a very tricky revelation. 

I knew I wanted 4 kids. 

I'd already had 3 c-sections. 

Finding a care provider would be more than difficult. 

Thankfully, I came across a group of women who have, sadly, experienced the same types of traumas. It was very healing to meet these women, share my story and hear their stories. 

The Atlanta chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) was absolutely essential in helping me find not just 1, but 2 providers in Georgia who would give me a real chance at labor and delivery. 

A year before Sammy was even conceived, I learned about an OB in Norcross named Dr. Tate. He is rather famous in The Birthing World. He has welcomed women into his care who would've otherwise been forced into repeat c-sections. He was willing to support and encourage a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean section) when most providers would flat refuse even allowing a mother to go into labor naturally before cutting her. 

There was only 1 problem with Dr. Tate. 

He didn't take my insurance. 

It was 2 weeks away from Open Enrollment and to get an insurance plan that would cover him was going to be really pricey. 

The Man asked me point blank, "Is this what you want?" He knew how hard Carl's birth was for me and he read all of the reasons why repeat c-sections were also risky. But, he was willing to support my decision about my body without wavering and happily spend the extra money. 

So, special insurance in hand- approvals and paperwork all together then finally I was a real Dr. Tate patient! 

I saw him for a year before I got pregnant. 

Now that I had the support of my husband, a social group of support from women who have gone before me to vbac, I just needed the support of one more person. 

And she was a bitch. 

I knew in my heart if I didn't get my body into birthing shape then the best husband, doctor, nor friend could help me. 

So, out of the need to support myself- I started getting healthy. 

I began to lose weight, get strong, and make peace with myself about my abilities. Before I realized it, I did have the support of The Fat Girl inside me. She stopped going to Starbucks and started juicing instead. 

I was getting so healthy that I didn't realize I had another problem. 

I was bleeding. A lot. And it had been going on for 2 months. 

It never occurred to me that I was pregnant. I decided that because of all of my new healthy activities, my body was healing and cleansing from my previous c-sections. 

It wasn't until our family went to a sushi restaurant that I began to suspect something. The place smelled awful. I felt sick. This is not normal for me. I love sushi. When we got home, I took a pregnancy test. 

Bfp (big fat positive). The Man had gone to play poker and I took the test alone deciding that if it was a bfn (big fat negative) I would just move along and wait for the bleeding to stop. But since, it was positive- I instantly began freaking out. I also sought some support from the ICAN girls and my sister. 

This next bit is long and if you know me, you already know what happened regarding the subchorionic hemmorage (sch) . It resolved at 18ish weeks. 

That was a scary, horrifying time. I thought that at any moment I was going to lose the baby. I needed to feel close and connected to this baby because if I had to say goodbye too soon, then I would at least have bonded a little. 

I started knitting & sewing for the baby. I felt really good and it scared me when I felt good. I was seeing Dr. Tate & getting excited about being more than half-way there. 


Another speed bump. This was outta left field and it threw me. 

Dr. Tate told me that the people who make the rules for Emory University Hospital decided to crack down on the number of c-sections they will allow to support a TOL (trial of labor). The new magic number? 


I had 3. 

Emory meant it. I could not simply sign something that stated I was an informed patient then proceed. I would have to agree to their terms and have another c-section. 

The only possible way to get my vbac, was to lie to Dr. Tate & say I would proceed with a section, lie to the hospital and say I agreed to the terms, but- once I showed up at the hospital in active labor; refuse the c-section. 

This plan would have been hard for many reasons. Looking back, and being grateful for the clarity of hindsight- I know this would've been bad. But, I didn't have hindsight at the time. 

Dr. Tate informed me of another doctor who was supportive of vbac and told me that if I had a consult with him he may be able to help. This ob was the doctor on call for a midwifery practice in Atlanta. I would need to get acceptance from the midwives and the doctor. 

Making the decision to leave Dr. Tate was hard. I considered pulling the bait and switch but I didn't think that was a good idea. First, I never had a natural labor before. So I had no idea what to expect. What if I had fast labors and didn't make it to the hospital in time? Or worse, what if I had a slow labor and came in too soon? Plus, did I mention the hospital is an hour away without traffic? 

Second, Dr. Tate provides so much to women. He gives a real chance for vbac mothers to have their birthing choices honored in a setting that is equipped to handle an emergency. Perhaps even more poignant, he is skilled in so many other areas that he can often prevent the first cut by offering vaginal breech deliveries, forceps usage, ecv (turning a breech baby my manipulating a mother's tummy from the outside), and simply by being patient and giving a mother a chance to labor in her own time. 

If, suddenly, all of the vba>2c (vaginal birth after more than 2 cesareans) patients showed up at Emory in labor, refusing a rcs (repeat c-section) were all patients of Dr. Tate, his privileges could be in jeopardy. It could seem that he was encouraging women to fight the rule and end up taking blame for all the refusals. 

I didn't want to put Dr. T in this position. His skills are needed. He does help many women have their vbac and he helps ftm's (first time mothers) prevent having a section from the start. I wouldn't risk getting him in trouble because so many others would be affected. 

So I contacted Dr. Bootstaylor who happened to be a supporting member of ICAN. I sent him an email and was delighted at his response. 

He would support me! 

He suggested that I contact Intown Midwifery and get an appointment. 

I contacted Intown and was told I would need to wait for the midwives to discuss my situation. 

I waited. That was all I could do. 

I talked it out with the ICANers. It was really encouraging to have support from so many women who knew how important this was to me 

Then. I got a call from Intown. Accepted! 

But, we had a problem. 

They didn't take my insurance, either. 

More forms. More phone calls. 

Sneaking up on 25 weeks. 

With great thanks to Lavonda and Stephanie at Intown, it all finally came together. 

I had my first appointment with Intown and my vbac consult with Dr. Boots. I finally felt at peace. 

Peace that I was going to get my TOL, peace that the baby was going to live through all the bleeding that had happened, and peace that it wasn't going to cost $30,000 out of my (The Man's) pocket. 

Oh yeah, and I was trying to do the Hypnobabies home study to ensure my coping skills. This will matter later. 

All this time, I was trying to keep busy. With positive baby thoughts. For the first time in my life, I didn't just *know* the baby's gender. 

For awhile we decided that if the opportunity came along, we weren't going to find out. 

But, more than ever- I needed to know. I needed to get to know this baby now so we could start right away being a team. 

And it was no surprise- BOY! 

So there. I was growing a boy. My 4th boy. My last boy. My last baby. 

He was going to need a name. We never settled on a name before our babies were born before. We would always have a few options and then figure it out once we met him face to face. 

But, I needed to name him already. I was still scared that I would lose him because of the sch. Even though, both Dr's Tate & Boots told me it was FINE. 

We chose Samil Thomas. Samil is a shortened name for an Irish Celtic hero named Lugh Samildanach. He was known as Master of All the Arts. 

I instantly started calling him Sammy. This is also something we never did before. We had nicknames for the babies (Sweetie, New Sweetie, Newest Sweetie) but I felt like this pregnancy had nothing in common with the others. 

30 weeks fast approaching. 

Another problem. 

The hospital didn't take my insurance. 

More calls. 
More forms. 
More faxes. 

The CFO of the hospital called me while I was in the bathroom at Goodwill to tell me that everything had been approved and I would be most welcome to birth at their hospital. Some kids thought it would be funny to start flushing toilets while I talked. So during the conversation, there were about 10 toilet flushes. 

Just par for the course. 

During this time, I was feeling great. No swelling, normal weight gain, no heartburn, all of my tests were normal. I was seeing my friend B. She is a doula and chiropractor. She offered to support me with my vba3c (vaginal birth after 3 cesareans) pursuit by being my doula and my chiro! As I think back on all that has happened, there are so many treasures of people who have been completely instrumental in helping me. 

B was one of these precious blessings. She was always so encouraging and she had an unwavering belief that I could do this. 

Now with everything all set in motion, the only tasks left were waiting, doing my hypnobabies homework, and connecting with Sammy. 

The time finally came when I was considered full term. I promised Sammy that I would wait on him and not try to do anything artificial to make him come sooner. 

As weeks 37, 38, and 39 passed, I began to feel slightly anxious about when labor would start. On Sunday at 39 weeks 6 days I began noticing very mild contractions. They were painless and exciting. 

I called my sister on Sunday August 19th to tell her it should happen any day now. Since she was planning to keep the boys for us, I wanted to keep her on alert. 

Monday, I was still having contractions and I had an appointment with Dr. Boots & with the midwives. The contractions were only mildly more intense and I barely noticed them. 

Tuesday, still having contractions. Only slightly more intense than the day before. I was beginning to really dread the hypnobabies lady's voice. 

Wednesday. I need to come to terms with a few things. This is my last pregnancy. My last baby kicks. My last chance to experience Birth. I also had this fear that the baby was going to aspirate merconium in the sac. I talked it out with the ICANers then I was able to just acknowledge the possibility and have peace that I couldn't do anything about it. So I moved on. 

Thursday. 7:10am. Contractions start. I stay in touch with B & my sister. They aren't painful, but they are stronger than the previous days. B comes over and adjusts me, shows me some pressure points to help keep the contractions going, and we go for a walk. We talk about keeping hydrated, nourished, and focused. She leaves later that afternoon. 

About an hour after her visit, things really start to kick in. I'm having contractions that I need to breathe through. 

Around 8pm, I called Intown to speak to the on call midwife. Anjli called me back and I just told her that things were starting to happen. She offered for me to come in but I declined. We decided to wait until 10pm & I'd call back to check in. 

At 10, I called her to say that I was going to wait it out a bit longer at home but if there were any changes, I'd call back. 

In the meantime, The Man & I watched some shows on tv and I decided I'm going to try and lay down and sleep as long as I can. 

This is Thursday , August 23rd around 11pm. 

I lay down and realize that was a mistake. Each time a contraction comes, I have to sit up which takes me forever. I decide to get up and accept that I'm in real labor. I let The Man sleep because I know he's going to need to be rested for this. I post to the ICAN group and get in the bath tub. The warm water is wonderful. I try to relax and just go with it. 

I texted B and my sister. 

I get a text from the National Weather Service that a severe thunderstorm is in effect until 2am for Flowery Branch. 
I rocked on the ball, leaned over the couch, walked around the kitchen, did a few yoga poses. I was very centered and quiet. I was able to keep connecting with Sammy and I was telling him that we were going to do this together. I hummed a lot. It was a deep hum, not quite a growl- but close. 

Then, around 3am- I had a really hard contraction and felt a weird 'bumping' sensation. I thought my water broke. When I stood up, I felt a little gush. I went to the bathroom and there was a bit of pink and clearish fluid/mucous. 
I woke The Man, called Anjli, B, and my sister. This was it! 

The Man woke the boys and packed the car. They were so excited that it was finally Sammy time. 

The contractions were coming stronger and I was really staying focused on connecting with Sammy. I held my belly and promised that we would be able to touch noses soon. 

My sister was meeting up with us on the way to hospital. We swapped our van full of boys for her car.

I figured I was going to have 10 contractions before we made it to AMC. 

I don't know how many I ended up having. I do remember being relieved when we pulled into the ER. 

We walked in and a security guard brought a wheelchair. He told The Man to go and park and to meet us on the 7th floor. The way he drove the wheelchair through all the hallways and elevators I was certain this was not his first time with a laboring woman. He must've figured he had less than 3 minutes to get me to the l&d before another contraction hit because he was flying! 

I got into a room and soon The Man & B were there. 

Not long after, there was the mandatory 30 minutes of monitoring. At some point, Anjli came in & checked me. I was fully effaced & 1cm. She also did a test & said my water had not broke. This is actually really good news and a blessing. 

I wasn't the least bit disappointed at the 1cm. I've dilated before. I've never been effaced before. 

I got hooked up to the telemetry monitor. 

The rest of this is going to be cloudy. I spent a lot of time going inward and when I'd have contractions, B was quick with counterpressure and The Man was there for me to lean into. 
I labored through the rest of the night and into the morning. Anjli came in around 11am on Friday and said she had another vbac mom who was at 6cm and wanted to get in the shower but couldn't because I had the only telemetry monitor. She said it was my choice but would I mind loaning it to her until she delivered. I asked Anjli to check me again but to tell The Man & B my progress. I didn't want to know. I was afraid it would mess up my groove. She checked me & told my team. I asked them what they thought about loaning the monitor. I figured it would only help my laboring karma so we decided to let the other mama have it as long as they gave it back. 

They did. Sometime after noon, the nurse brought it back. 

I labored all day. All afternoon. All evening. The nurses kept coming in wanting to readjust the monitor because it would slip when I changed positions. I hated the monitor. I hated being constantly poked by the nurses trying to get their reading. I knew they were just doing their job and more than many times they just left me alone. My Friday morning/afternoon nurse was so great. She even let me hold off on the heplock all day! I loved her (when she wasn't adjusting the monitor). 

Eventually, nice cool nurse was off and new, 'by the book' nurse took over. Just before Anjli left she checked me. I was at 6-7. This meant I could get in the pool! 

Linda came in after Anjli left and just after I sank into the lovely warm pool. She was NOT happy that I had been laboring all this time with no heplock. She asked B if I had refused it. B assured her that I didn't and was absolutely willing to get it. 

Linda had nurse 'by the book' come in immediately and start poking. Bless her heart- that was the worst set of needle pokes ever. I have no idea where that woman picked up her IV skills, but it's possible that I was her first live victim. 

Finally. Heplock in. Laboring in the pool. I'm feeling like I've had a renewed spirit! 

During all this time, The Man & B were always there. They made sure I was always hydrated with coconut water and tried to give me some light snacks. They are the reason I lasted so long. If it was up to me, I would've ran out of steam because I had no desire at all to eat or drink. 

Some more time passes and Linda checks me because I'm starting to make pushy sounds. She says I'm about 8-9 and says not to push just yet. 

She finally says she wants me to get out of the pool so I can try some pushes to get Sammy down. 

That sucked. 

Our room had a busted a/c and it was freezing. Maintenance said it couldn't be fixed so I had to deal with it. 

Getting out of the water was awful. I was shivering. Thankfully, I was soon wrapped in lots of warm blankets and towels. 

I'm not sure what time I started pushing. 

But it lasted nearly 4 hours. 

At one point I realize that I'm flat on my back, and my legs are being pushed back and I keep flashing back to someone from ICAN saying they felt like they were pushing a bowling ball uphill with only her vagina muscles. 

At some point after midnight on Saturday, Linda begins to voice her concern that I am going to get too tired. She recommends starting pitocin and getting an epidural. I look at B with a look of horror. She knows. The Man knows. I tell her that I'm not interested in it. 

B suggests we get out of the bed and try toilet sitting to get Sammy to come down. 

She goes with me to the bathroom and The Man & Linda talk more about the drugs. He takes her outside to talk. He let's her know that I am completely committed to doing it without drugs. Linda is still concerned that I am too tired to keep going. 

Finally Linda suggests having Dr. Boots come and help out with the forceps. She says that Sammy is still too high to use forceps so I have to get him down lower. 

B helps me get focused. The Man turns on hypnobabies and I'm able to get back in control of my pushes. We do some really good pushes on the toilet for awhile. Linda checks again and says that Sammy is low enough to call Dr. Boots for the forceps. 

At this point, I think I'm getting close to 4 hours of pushing. I decide that if Sammy isn't born by the time Dr. Boots comes, I will gleefully accept the forceps. 

Linda is concerned that I haven't been eating and drinking much. So she thinks I should have some IV fluids. She thinks it will help me gather the strength to get Sammy here. 

I'm back in the bed and I get up on my knees and push for all I have while I'm waiting for Dr. Boots. 

Dr. Boots shows up. I am at peace. A nurse calls the baby people and says that a baby is about to be born with a forceps assist and to come. 

Dr. Boots tells me that he's going to help get Sammy past my pubic bone but that I will be pushing him out. 

I really don't remember the chain of events, but at some point- I feel a bit like I'm being tortured from my bottom all the way through my lady parts. A contraction comes and I push with everything I have. Dr. Boots pulls. I scream. 

And then. 
And then. 

Everything I've gone through. Every doctor. Every phone call. Every tear. Every drop of blood. Every ounce of juice. Every mile on the elliptical. Every word of encouragement. Every look of doubt. Every single hope I ever had.... 

A slimey, bloody, crying baby is passed into my arms and on my chest. He's already crying and the 'stand by baby' people leave. 

The Man is crying. I keep saying, "Sammy. Oh Sammy. We did it. We did it Sammy. We did it!" 

We snuggle while I get stitched up Down There. I won't even pretend that it didn't hurt. It did. It was like getting stung by a hive of bees. 

We don't let anyone touch him for a bath or assessment. 

The Man cuts the cord after it's done pulsing. 

Time check. 2:59am. If my water had been broke, we would've had to stay at the hospital longer and they would've wanted to give Sammy antibiotics. We were so keen to just get home we didn't want any road blocks. The nurse told us that vbac people have to stay for 24 hours for observation. So, we stayed for exactly 24 hours. We left at 3am on Sunday. 

Here's the part where I say how perfect my baby is and how happy I am to have him in my arms. 

Sammy's birth means so many things for me. I am finally able to accept #3's birth. I can forgive my body for failing me during my 1st birth, and I can finish this chapter of my life without any dangling questions about my abilities. 

While I do feel triumphant and proud, I am also humbled and grateful. I had a lot of people who prayed for me, believed in me, and who genuinely wanted to help me.. For all these people, Sammy & I are grateful.


  1. What an inspiring birth story! You sure were a trooper, and I am glad you stuck to your guns and provided the best possible birth for Sammy!

  2. WOW!! I think I have had this tab open on my computer since you first wrote it... I am just NOW getting around to reading it for some reason and HOLY MOLY!!!! You are AMAZING! I am so blessed to "know" you and I am SO proud of you!! Thank you for sharing you story!