We got this baby boy’s name from the iconic book ,“To Kill a Mockingbird.” It is hands-down our favorite story of all time. So now, it is time to share Mr. Atticus’ birth story. **WARNING** This is a long read.
The moment I zoomed in on that positive home-pregnancy test with my magnifier, I knew I wanted this journey to be different. James and I had our hearts set on a VBA2C. My two prior cesarean deliveries left me traumatized of hospitals and interventions, in addition to making me feel like my body was incapable of birthing a baby. Most importantly, our hospital births made us feel left out and disconnected from an experience any sighted person would cherish. Despite our blindness, we wanted to be treated as normally and equally as possible; James wanted to be as involved and hands-on as possible in labor and delivery, and so we opted to use a birth center in hopes of making that dream come true.
Our prenatal visits with the birth center were strikingly different than a traditional OB. We felt comfortable, listened to, and most importantly respected. The weeks flew by; aside from trying to maintain my stress, anxiety, and to mentally prepare myself for a VBA2C, we also took a Bradley Method class that helped us tremendously in understanding natural childbirth and the importance of relaxation.
The weeks prior to the start of my labor, I was an emotional wreck. The nerves were setting in and that just worsened as I approached 40 weeks. Having never experienced true labor/contractions, one of my biggest fears was how would I know when true labor hits? Another one of my fears was what if I just don’t go into labor? (This fear had a lot to do with the reason for my second cesarean). I did a lot of crying, sorting through my feelings and just trying to get myself out of a negative headspace during those last few weeks.
The final week of pregnancy consisted of nightly contractions. These contractions would come every 15-20 minutes for a few hours, waking me up from sleep, but allowing me to fall back to sleep. They never progressed or got closer together, and by morning it was like they never happened. A sweep was performed at my 40 week appointment on October 25th and I was already 3-4 cm dilated. This helped settle my fears/doubts a little but I knew this was just the beginning. That night was another uncomfortable night.
The next day, October 26th, I lost bits of mucous plug. Overall, I felt great and went about my day as normal, taking Lilah to school and trying to rest and keep Kinley from driving me crazy. Throughout the day, I started to feel nauseated. It was like morning sickness all over again. I had no appetite and my stomach felt all sorts of yuck. Later that evening, I felt unusually crampy, and lost more mucus plug. I started timing contractions but they were 20+ minutes apart. Nothing painful, but I did notice them. After taking a bath and letting our doula know about the contractions, I tried to relax and went to bed.
I woke up around 1 am, October 27th, with some strong contractions. After getting up, using the restroom, and trying to go back to sleep, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I woke James up thinking it was just going to be another one of “those nights.” I so desperately wanted to go back to sleep, but laying down was just too uncontrollable, so we went to the living room where I sat on my birthing ball and rested my head at the table. I would doze, but would wake up at every contraction. This happened for a couple hours, at which point I had to rock my body and focus to get through them. James kept insisting “this was it” and that we needed to let our doula know. For some reason I didn’t believe him at first. I didn’t want it to be a false alarm and they fizzle out after a few hours like they have been doing in previous nights. I guess part of me was also in denial that my body would actually go into labor.
Well, even though I didn’t want to believe it, James was right and he notified our doula. I switched between the ball and laying down on the couch for a couple more hours. Our doula showed up and we did some more positions: walking, sitting on the toilet, and using the ball. Contractions were about every 5-6 minutes or so. A storm was passing so I focused on the noise of rain to help get my mind off the discomfort. I love the sound of rain, and this seemed to help.
Throughout this entire time, Guide Dog Cameo kept following me as I labored. She would lay underneath the table while I sat on my birthing ball, she lay by the couch when I was trying to rest, she even lay next to me when I was laboring on the toilet. At one point I moved onto the floor, resting my arms and upper body on the birth ball. Cameo came up to me and pushed her body against mine. I held her, resting my face against her neck as I stroked her soft ears and head. I labored through a few contractions this way. Cameo has always had this sweet, calm disposition when I’m at my most stressed. Whether it was finals at Texas A&M or trying to cross a 6 lane street with the sun in my eyes, I always knew I was okay because she never let me know otherwise. She knew what was happening and she knew what I needed. She stood there; still and calm as I stroked her fur and focused on her gentle breathing. I really needed that comfort to ground myself. She was calm and relaxed, so I must be calm and relaxed. I was safe.
The girls woke up and my mother got Lilah ready for school. We told her baby brother was coming and that he would hopefully be here when she gets home later. She left for school and soon after we left for the birth center. Cameo wanted to follow along as I walked out the door, but she needed to stay home. (I was told she was eagerly awaiting my arrival back the entire time I was away). Riding in a vehicle while laboring is so incredibly uncomfortable. Period.
We arrived at the birth center a little after 7:30am. I was 5 cm dilated, 90% effaced with contractions 4-5 minutes apart. I labored on the birthing ball, leaning on the bed, and sitting backwards on the toilet. I managed to eat a breakfast taco. I needed to keep my strength up. I labored on the toilet again and then in bed with a peanut ball. Contractions started spacing out, so I rested as much as I can between them.
At 11:45am, I was 6 cm dilated and still 90% effaced. It was suggested that we go outside and walk. The change of scenery could do some good in helping pick up contractions and relax the body. It was sunny and windy outside and the fresh air felt so good and relaxing. We did some laps up and down the parking lot, as well as some curb walking. Contractions started getting closer together and I was feeling pressure in my lower back and bottom.
We went back inside and ate lunch (somehow I managed to eat half a McAllisters sandwich). I switched from laboring on the ball, toilet and standing up leaning on the bed. Contractions were about 6 minutes apart. At around 3:30pm, I was 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced. I agreed to have my waters broken to help get baby to apply more pressure to my cervix. By around 4:30pm, I became emotional and the self-doubt started to kick in. Contractions were still coming every 6 minutes. I was tired and I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to give the birthing tub a try. The water felt good and helped relieve some of the pain. Contractions picked up, and I started to feel so much pressure in my bottom.
At 7pm, I was a 8-9cm dilated. The pain and pressure was getting more difficult to handle no matter the position I labored in.
At 8:30pm, I was still 8-9 cm dilated with contractions 3 minutes apart, but baby switched to a posterior position. My cervix was also starting to get a little swollen.I labored in the side-lying position with a peanut ball, trying to rest between contractions. I was tired, and contractions spaced out again. I felt like it was never going to end.
By 9:30pm, we began the discussion of a possible hospital transfer due to my exhaustion, being in labor for so long and staying stuck at 8-9 cm. This was my absolute biggest fear. I dreaded the possibility of a hospital transfer because that would most likely result in a c-section delivery. At this point, I became an emotional wreck. I cried. I felt like my dream was slipping away. I was so tired, and all I wanted to lay down and sleep. We talked about our options, discussed a plan, and I cried some more.
It’s funny how crying helps your body release tension…. As I sat on the bed, leaning on James who sat in a chair in front of me, my contractions started to become closer together (2-3 minutes). At 11:15pm, I was 9cm dilated and a +1 station with baby’s head back in a good position. We would give labor a couple more hours to see it things continue to progress. I ate some clementines and received some IV fluids, which both seemed to help. I perked up a bit, had less tension, and felt like I had a little more energy to keep going. I started to feel increasing pain in my lower back and tailbone. I kept telling James to put counter pressure to relieve the pain. It felt like no matter how much counter pressure he applied, it wasn’t enough. Our doula even helped. She practically sprawled herself across the bed pushing against the wall to get leverage to apply enough pressure so I could get some relief. We then moved to the toilet, but the pressure started to become unbearable. I began to get emotional again. No matter what I did, nothing relieved the pressure. I couldn’t imagine how I could endure this any longer. At this point, I had to find something to help me work through each contraction. I told James to tell me something, and he started telling me some of my birth affirmations:
“Each contraction brings me closer to meeting my baby.”
“Trust my baby and my body.”
“I am brave. I am strong. I am in a safe place.”
I would repeat each one he told me.
We moved to the birth stool. James sat in front of me and I leaned into him. He kept telling me birth affirmations and I kept repeating them, trying to relax through each contraction and the pressure. At 1:30am, I was almost completely dilated with a slight lip. Almost there, but not quite. We moved into the side-lying position with a peanut ball to get rid of the lip and so I could rest some. James lay down next to me. I was exhausted, James was exhausted, we were all exhausted. I dozed off between contractions. The pain and pressure started to increase and became absolutely unbearable. Every time I would doze off, another contraction would come that would wake me up. It made me so angry because at this point all I wanted to do was sleep. I was beyond exhausted. The pressure in my bottom got worse and it took everything within me to “try” and relax through each contraction. It literally felt like my hips were being cracked in half. I knew I was close, but it felt like each contraction lasted forever.
By 2:55pm, I was fully dilated and my body was ready to push. I couldn’t believe it and was actually kinda shocked that I finally made it to pushing. James practically jumped out of the bed when they said it was time. He was just as shocked as I was.
Pushing was such a weird sensation to me and I felt like it took a bit for me to get the hang of it. Both James and I got to feel as baby’s head was emerging. There were multiple times where I felt I couldn’t do it because I was so tired, but somehow I found the energy to keep going. Crowning hurt so bad (that ring of fire is no joke). As baby’s head was delivered our midwife guided James’ hand so he could feel. After only 22 minutes of pushing, and with a final push, our baby boy was born and immediately placed on my tummy. I ugly cried! I couldn’t believe what I just did. James couldn’t stop saying how proud of me he was, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Our birth experience was so healing and one that we will never forget. During labor and delivery, our blindness was not once seen as a hurdle or inconvenience. I was treated with respect in regards to what I needed help with as I moved around and labored. Lights were dimmed allowing me to labor comfortably with no eye strain/fatigue. James was given all the support he needed to help support me, whether that was verbal directions/cues or hand-over-hand guidance. He had an active role in my labor/delivery and not once did he feel disregarded or shoved in a corner. He was able to see our son emerge into the world and even got to cut the cord (he wasn’t allowed to during our previous births).
After almost 7 years of feeling like my body couldn’t birth a baby, I did just that. I had a natural unmedicated birth after 2 c-sections with a 9 lb 1.5 oz baby boy (my biggest baby). Labor was long (over 24 hours), tiring, and intense. I wanted to quit multiple times and it wasn’t easy as I told myself to keep going, but my body did it. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in my case, it took a village to birth one, and what a beautiful, healing, and wholesome experience it was.