Birth is a beautiful yet wild ride, often with uncontrollable variables. My memories of my first birth are clouded with trauma, and I was anxious as we approached the delivery of our newest baby. I was so grateful to have Rene' to help my husband and me navigate all the variables and options during this birth. Her guidance was invaluable and enabled me to have no regrets with the journey towards my healing birth, and the outcome 2 - so worth it - our beautiful, healthy daughter. 

We used several services from Birth Help for both of my pregnancies. We took the natural childbirth classes, used the doula support, and attended Exceptional Birth Group. Both of my pregnancies were uneventful, filled with supplements, chiropractor visits, and doing everything "right." Both started at 38+6 with my water breaking before contractions. Being GBS positive both times, I needed to get to the hospital shortly after my water breaking to get antibiotics.

My first labor was 28 hours of intense work. Rene' met us at Ochsner, and there was no fear in my mind of anything to come. My contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, and gained intensity as the night went on. I eventually got into the amazing birth tub with my husband while Rene' and Amanda, my midwife, stayed by my side.

Labor stalled and fear started to creep in. I knew things weren't going like they "should," and Rene' helped me work through my fears. We walked the halls for what felt like, and probably was, several hours, and after being up all night, Rene' discussed the option of using a narcotic as a tool to allow me to sleep and gain strength for the work ahead. I swore I wouldn't have any drugs or interventions, but I have learned to appreciate that natural birth is beautiful, but sometimes things aren't black and white, and maybe you need a little narcotic to sleep, or an epidural to allow your body to relax, or a c section to get the baby out.

Several hours later, I had no cervical change, so I was given pitocin. Again, Rene' and my husband were my rocks, because that drug changed everything. I felt incredible pain in my pelvis, but I figured it was from the pit. Eventually, I made it to 10cm, and we got to push! Pushing felt incredible! I made very little progress after a couple hours of pushing, so we got creative. I'm pretty sure there isn't a position that we didn't try! Nothing changed. My firstborn, my son, was born via cesarean after 3-4 hours of pushing and heart decelerations. Rene' held my hand as I lay exhausted on the operating table and my dreams of natural birth were shattered.

Three years later, I was determined to have a VBAC. My attitudes toward birth had changed. I had few regrets from my first birth, but I had sorrow and grief from my body "failing" me. I think I believed both times that if I tried everything, I could control the outcome of my birth. The second pregnancy, I ate clean, I walked 5 miles a day, did yoga and meditation. Anything I could do, I did. I gained less weight, I was fit, I was strong, I could do this!

My water broke at 6am, and I called Rene' to let her know that again my water had broken randomly, and I wasn't having strong contractions. I told her I was afraid of having a repeat of my first birth since it started the same way. I was already fighting negative thoughts. We met at the hospital, and Dr. Dickerson met us in assessment. My birth team was not just a team, we had a “birth family” that day. I believe with all of my heart that no one in the entire world would have made our birth family better.

Once upstairs, Rene' and I walked the halls to get my contractions stronger. I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, but they weren't strong at all. I said several times that I wasn't really in labor, I wasn't having real contractions. It just didn't hurt at all. Dr. D ordered a breast pump, and we used that for 7 minutes. I had contractions every 1.5-2 minutes from then on for the rest of my labor.

I ended up asking for Dr. D to come check me because I was still convinced it wasn't active labor. Turns out I had gone from 2 cm to 5 cm in maybe 3 hours, and I got nervous because I couldn't be in denial anymore. This was it! As the contractions got more intense, I got into the shower. My husband held the shower head over my back while I started screaming that no one was helping me, and it hurt. I asked to be checked again because I wanted to know this pain was doing something. I was 7cm, and I let everyone know that I was scared of transition. I was then promptly told I was in transition, which gave me some peace.

My husband and I slow danced a little, and Rene' encouraged me to talk to the baby. As we danced, I breathed and told our daughter how much she was loved, that we would take care of her, and that we were ready to meet her. I told her to come down and out, I told my cervix to open, and I told my pelvis to allow her out. I told my birth family that I was pushing a baby out of my vagina today. I also got mad at my husband for wearing a hat and threw it across the room, so it was not all peaceful and beautiful! Those are my favorite memories.

I got into the tub and contractions were now unbearable. I no longer could allow them to take over my body, I was struggling with surrender, and I wanted someone to save me. It felt wrong, like my pelvis was shattering again. Dr. D checked me, and I was still 7cm. Part of me had wondered if I hadn't been so stubborn about not having an epidural for my first birth, would I have needed pitocin, and would the heart rate have dropped or baby been in such a bad position, etc.

So at that point, after consideration, I opted for the epidural to allow my body to relax. I had been complaining all that time that no one was listening to my pleas for help (they responded by encouraging me), but as soon as I said my code word, everyone sprang into action. The epidural was placed, and I lay in bed with nothing to do. It was so odd. I never envisioned labor to be chilling in bed. We all chatted and enjoyed our time together, and 3 hours later, I was complete.

It turned out that I had another posterior baby, so Dr. D had me push while he tried to manually turn her. I was grateful for that epidural. I even asked Rene' to write in the birth notes that I loved the epidural. We pushed off and on for about 3 hours, and had zero progress. Still posterior, 0 station, but now I was swelling.

We discussed options together, and everyone left the room so my husband and I could make a decision. It was a different feeling this time, my whole pregnancy it seemed like Rene' and I talked about surrender. Surrendering to the contractions, to the process, and it turns out, I had to surrender to our sweet daughter being born via cesarean that evening, and I could not have asked for a more beautiful delivery. Again, Rene' and my husband held my hand as I wept on the way to the OR, grieving the loss of my VBAC and most likely ever having a vaginal delivery.  I was given everything I wanted, immediate skin to skin, breastfeeding before leaving the OR, worship music in the OR. I felt respected and as in control as possible.

In the days that followed, I had some anxiety and called Rene'. I talked about my disappointment in my body failing again, and she said it was normal, but she also lovingly pointed out that it grew a baby to term and breastfed my son for 3 years. I wasn't broken.

I learned a lot about myself after that birth, that I can't control everything and that perfection isn't achievable. Learning that has taught me to love myself more and to give myself grace on the days that I still struggle with disappointment. We hope to have more children, and I can't tell you if I'll try for a VBA2C or just schedule a section, but I can tell you, we will use Rene’s support again. Nurses respected our space and knew Rene'. She helped us take care of the details so we didn't have to, remembering to eat, change positions, etc. At the end, I think we all knew it would be a section, but she helped us talk through it, allowing us to make the decision, which helped me have peace now, months later.

I know we did everything possible, and this time I have no regrets and less disappointment. I've learned to surrender, and I've learned my strength. Before having children, I was modest and timid. I am now a strong, determined mother of two children, with a strong marriage, and I see the world differently, for the better.

Amanda McCauley