Ashley is a beautiful, strong mumma from the mighty USA. Ashley is sharing her journey into motherhood for the third time.
After a failed induction, Ashley's first child Bry, was born via cesarean section, her second child Oliver was also delivered by cesarean. When Ashley found out she was pregnant for the third time she was determined to have a natural, vaginal, homebirth.
The Friday before our baby was born, I awoke to contractions at 6:30am. They were intense, but not too painful, and lasted about thirty seconds. As time passed, they got increasingly more painful, but were still only thirty seconds long and were coming every half hour to an hour. I decided to get up and get ready for work to try and distract myself. We were planning on having breakfast with two of our heritage guitar reps (I work with my husband and in-laws at lightning Joe’s guitar heaven) and I didn't want to miss out on the meeting. I arrived at breakfast in pain, but I got through it and went to work afterward anyway.
About an hour before I was supposed to be off, the contractions became even more painful (ha, painful! if I’d only known what was coming my way just a couple days later, I would've laughed at these contractions) and called my midwife to see if I could come in an hour early to get a cervical check. I left the shop and headed to her office thinking, 'this could be it!' but came to find that I was 30% effaced and only a fingertip dilated. She told me that things are progressing, but slowly, and that's normal. Deflated, I decided to go home and rest. When I got home, I took a hot shower, got in my jammies, and laid down for a nap. I probably slept for about four hours and when I woke up, the contractions were gone. Later on that night though, they came back and I had them every half hour all the way through the night. And that is how Saturday and Sunday went for me; early morning contractions that tapered off until night-time when I would have them every half hour throughout the night.
Monday I was scheduled to have a biophysical profile scan done and my midwife was coming over to do another cervical check. Since I was attempting a vba2c (vaginal birth after two cesareans) and was a day and a half from 42 weeks, my midwife suggested I get it done to make sure everything looked fine and measured normally. All through the day I would have a contraction every hour or so that were big and lasting about forty five seconds. I even had two during the scan! Then my midwife came over, told us that I passed the scan, and did a cervical check. I was about 60-70% effaced and 1-2cm dilated, so she did a membrane sweep. Within twenty minutes I was already having contractions. Like the real deal contractions. I was now officially out of prodromal labour and in early labour so out came the contraction tracker app that we downloaded two months prior.
Between contractions I got my son Oliver ready for bed, kissed my daughter Bry goodnight, and tried to rest. During this time I remember feeling so calm and at peace. I think I felt that way because I was finally able to experience labour naturally and I was in the comfort of my own home surrounded by the people that meant the most to me. That, and I was finally on my way to getting this freaking baby out of me! The contractions were about 6-7 minutes apart and lasting around forty five seconds to a minute, but around 10:30pm (already labouring for almost four hours) they became longer, stronger, and closer together. Around midnight my husband called my midwife gave her the 4-1-1 (contractions that are four minutes apart, lasting at least a minute, for at least an hour straight) and she told him that now would be a good time to set up the birthing tub. So my husband went to work on setting that up, which made me feel so good that we were at that point and that I would be able to birth in the tub, the way I always wanted it for my other two babies, but never got the chance to.
My midwife came around 12:30 and did a cervical check and I was at 3cm dilated and 80% effaced and in active labour. The contractions were closer and closer together and lasting sometimes up to three minutes. All day Tuesday I laboured all over the house! On the living room floor, on the couch (where we tried to watch Ace Ventura; when nature calls), on the dining room chair, on the floor in our room, in the bed, on the toilet (which was where I did most of my labouring), in the bathtub, in the shower, in the bathroom... pretty much everywhere but the kids' bedrooms. My midwife had another midwife come over to try some new positions and get a fresh new eye on the situation. We did belly lifts and lunges and squats of all kinds to try and get things to move along, but I ended up labouring all through another night and into a new day with tons of help and comfort from our birth assistant, friend, and unofficial doula, Jennifer, and tons of comfort and love from my husband.
Through that night though, things got pretty intense and I ended up not really sleeping at all. The contractions were not giving me a break and were too close together for me to be at all comfortable. I think another thing that was stressful for me was all the contraction tracking. Every time I had a contraction either my husband or I would have to hit 'start' then hit 'stop' and to do that all through the night when you had been labouring for more than a day already became an annoyance.
Wednesday morning at 8am while Jennifer and I were sharing a plate of eggs in bed my husband had just cooked up for us, my midwife came. I will never forget that moment. Here I was calm, happy, eating eggs in bed and Megan walks in and says 'okay, now for your favourite two words. Starts with a C and an E.' I rolled my eyes, threw my head back, and Jennifer looked at me in a confused way. Cervical exam. For me, those things were worse than my contractions! It’s not that Megan was rough or horrible at them; I just really, really hated them. But, she checked me and I was at 6cm dilated and 90% effaced!
During a really insane contraction I felt this huge rush of fluid and my midwife said;
"Oh, Ashley! Your water just broke!’
I let out a big sigh of relief and she said
"You've never been a six before! Ashley, you've never been this far along! You never got to have your water break naturally!'
I burst into tears. It was amazing to hear that my body was doing what it needed to do all on its own to bring this baby earth side and that I was at a point I had never been at before with my first two babies.Within an hour I reached the transition stage of labour, and was at 8cm, 90% effaced, and soon after, the pushing contractions started. It was the most insane feeling ever! The contractions I had been experiencing, though painful, were easy enough to breathe and moan through. I felt like I could control my pain level even though I couldn't control the contraction. But with these, I couldn't control anything. It was insane to have my body bear down without my willing it to and it sort of scared me. I was feeling really empowered, though, at this point, and feeling like I was so close to delivering my sweet boy. Megan told my husband to start filling up the tub and as soon as it was ready, I got in. I have to say; for me, the birthing tub was not what I had hoped it would be. It felt nice being in there, but I envisioned it being much more helpful with the contractions (maybe because I was already in the transition phase of labour?) and more relaxing. Now, I wasn't expecting a spa-like experience by any means, but I was hoping for more relief. However; I stayed in for a good hour and tried some different positions that the tub made easier to get in, but I really just couldn't vibe with it, so I got out and laboured some more in bed and on the toilet. Within the two hours of pushing, my contractions slowed down, so I got another of my favourite words-cervical exam.
This is where my heart sank and things started to get scarier for me. I was told that my cervix had swollen down to 6cm with all of the pushing and that baby had changed positions into not such an ideal one, had gone from a +2 station to a -1 station, and that I needed to stop pushing. I was heartbroken. I thought, 'how can one just stop pushing when one’s body is doing it for them?' I blew raspberries after raspberry to try and stop them, but they just kept coming, stronger and stronger. I tried lunges and squats, got back in the tub, sat in the bath, walked, laboured on my side, and got back into the tub again. I was checked again after half an hour and still no progression. At that point, after labouring for 41+ hours (not to mention the three days I was in off and on prodromal labour) and not being able to stop these pushing contractions, coupled with the fact that baby was now pushing on my pubic bone with each contraction and my cervix swelling and swelling, I was also at a point where I was letting out a long and high pitched, bloodcurdling scream with each contraction that I could not control-I was done. Done. Done. as I kneel in the tub with my husband stroking my hair and the surge of each contraction I was so wishing away, I looked up at Megan and Jennifer, presumably with the biggest puppy dog eyes I could muster up, and muttered, 'I’m done. I can't go any longer. I can't do this anymore. I'm tired, so tired. We need to go to the hospital. I need to get this baby out of me. I’m so sorry you guys. (Looking at my husband with tears streaming down my face) I’m so sorry honey. I’m sorry. I just can't go on. I’m so tired.' Jennifer and Megan left the room to discuss and suggested my husband and I talk about it to make sure that’s what we wanted to do. We talked, I cried and apologized, and said that I needed to go and he agreed and reassured me that it was okay, he understood. He kissed me and held me and helped me through the continuing contractions. All the while I was asking when we could go and Jennifer came in to let me know that Megan was calling the hospital and letting them know we were coming. We got me out of the tub, got me into a bra and dress, gathered up my nonchalantly packed hospital bag, because, you know, I wasn't going to end up at the hospital, and got me into the van. My mum had been there all morning hanging out in the living room waiting to help and be there when I transitioned into the second stage of labour and delivery, so she followed us, along with Megan, and Jennifer stayed behind to clean things up.
Let me tell you. That ride to the hospital was the worst experience of my entire life. The worst! Why doctors and hospitals tell expecting mums to wait to go to the hospital until they have contractions that are close together and lasting a long while is beyond me. They should all be shot! I had never been so uncomfortable, miserable, upset in my whole life being strapped into a seat while having insane and scary contractions and being able to feel every pebble in the damn road for twenty minutes. We walked through the lobby with me screaming loudly and moaning like a madwoman. That continued in the elevator up to the labour/delivery floor, probably scaring the crap out of the lady that took that brave ride with us and through the hall to the room. Luckily, they had been waiting for me and got me in right away. Just before I got into the bed, as I was taking my sandals off, I had another big contraction and fluid came out with some meconium in it, which worried everyone. I got into the bed and everything happened so fast: I’m in the bed, they're poking vein after vein to try and get an IV in, I’m being hooked up to the monitor, there's beeping, people are talking, my midwife is asking questions, my mum is at the foot of my bed crying, they put an oxygen mask on me, ask me about creams and vaccines and all sorts of stuff, and then there he was... Dr. Kromhout. My saving grace. I was so relieved to learn he was the on-call Dr for the day. He delivered Oliver and I had never felt so at ease with a Dr as I did with him. He came over, knelled down, took my hand, looked me in the eyes and greeted me. He asked me how I felt, what I wanted to do, gave me his concerns and what they could do for me (epidural, wait 1-2 hours, see if I progress or get me in for a cesarean) and awaited my response. I looked up at him and breathed, 'just take me in for a cesarean'. And off I went.
They wheeled me into the delivery room; I got my spinal by a very kind and concerned (for me) anaesthesiologist. Chit chatted with Dr Kromhout, because that's how he is-super chill-and asked for a clear curtain (they didn't have those so I got a curtain with a window), they set me up and in came my husband and midwife. I was so thankful that Dr Kromhout allowed Megan in the room. She not only was able to take photos for us, but she continued her midwifery care by giving me support I didn't get to have with my previous cesareans and that put me at even more ease. After a couple jokes of asking if I wanted a fancy designer cesarean section with florals and curly q's and me asking back if I could please get a tummy tuck this time (sometimes, in situations that are beyond your control and ones you need to succumb to, you need to have good spirits and laughs), my baby came out in a huge surge, loud and in charge and beautiful as ever. My husband got to hold him right away and he was then placed on my chest for some skin to skin, then my husband took him again and once I was all closed up (generic incision and no tummy tuck, darn it!) we got to go to our room for recovery. My husband did skin to skin right away, and then I got to nurse baby. He nursed almost the whole time we were in recovery! I was so thankful for no nursing complications since that can happen sometimes when you have a caesarean or even just a vaginal hospital birth. They weighed him and measured him and did his cute little footprints and then we got to go to the room we were to stay in the next three days.
My third baby came earth side march 2, 2016 at 2:20pm weighing 8 pounds 5 ounces and 21.5 inches long.
Born at 42 weeks gestation, he certainly took his time coming into this world, and we were beyond anxious to meet him.
All I can say is "wow", what a warrior. I had been following Ashley's journey on Instagram for sometime before Joseph was born, so I was really praying for her to have the safe, vaginal delivery she so desired. It seemed God and Joseph had other plans, but I am so proud of you Ashley, you laboured for so long, stayed positive and when the time came to make tough choices you put your and Joseph's health and safety before your own desires and that is beautiful. Vaginal birth after any cesarean can have its risks, but you tried and did a wonderful job. Congratulations on the arrival of Joseph!