Claire's Birth Story


When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I felt a strong desire to heal from my first birthing experience. When I gave birth to my daughter Madeline, I had planned to have an out of hospital water birth at a birth center. After going two weeks overdue, six grueling days of labor, a transfer to the hospital, and 38 units of Pitocin, I ended up birthing by c-section. I was diagnosed as "failure to progress". Although I was fully effaced and baby was at the +2 station by the end, I still never dilated over a three. You can read Madeline's birth story here: Madeline's Birth Story.

While welcoming a child into the world is an incredible experience no matter how it happens, I still spent months coming to terms with the the emergency c-section and mourning the loss of my natural birth I had worked so hard for. Emergency c-sections take a while to process I was told. And it's true. A lot of the emotions didn't really hit me until six months after Madeline was born.  I had PTSD like symptoms at times. I had flashbacks to the negative and particularly traumatizing parts. I sometimes stayed up late at night crying or obsessing over what I could have done differently for a different outcome. In a way, my connections with the natural birth community made it more difficult for me to come to terms with what happened. There is a mentality within the birthing community that if you have a c-section it isn't because your body is broken, there has got to be a reason for it, and we birth junkies sadly like to tell women exactly what they did wrong to end up with that result. The facebook pages that are there to support women who went though what I did actually made me depressed because they made it seem like there was a simple answer to why women are getting c-sections. Oh it was because of the epidural. Oh it's because you didn't labor at home long enough. Your doctor didn't give you enough time. It was the morphine. It was breaking your water. You were too scared. You didn't trust your body. Your support people weren't supportive enough. You have trust issues with one of your support people. etc. etc. Finally, I realized that I knew that for me, the c-section was indeed necessary and it helped me bring my daughter into the world safely. But I didn't want to have the same experience the next time around and I knew that part of that would be changing my philosophy. 

As soon as I read the positive pregnancy test for baby #2, I decided that I would try for a natural vbac but only on the condition that I wouldn't put as much pressure on myself. Yes, I would trust my body just like last time. Yes, I would study up again on natural birth and plan on birthing naturally, but I would also keep in mind that a c-section was a real possibility and be prepared for it so that I could make it the best experience possible if it came down to it. I chose a fantastic care provider (the midwives at Central Utah Women's Clinic). They are among the top ranked in the state for having a low c-section rate, a high vbac success rate, and a high natural birth rate.

There are some difficulties in trying for a vbac. Mothers with past c-sections cannot be induced or use pitocin to augment labor as it increases the risk of uterine rupture. We are even more "on the clock" than mothers who have never had a c-section. We are watched and monitored closely and are expected to have a textbook dilation. I was very optimistic going into labor. I believed in my body and continued to remind myself that this labor could be completely different than last time while also keeping in mind that another c-section may be necessary.

I felt a lot of good braxton hicks contractions for the week leading up to going into labor. We had a little baby fake out about a week before she actually came. That day, I had some good solid contractions for about 10 hours that got down to six minutes apart, but they faded that night when I went to sleep.

Day 1: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I woke up a few times Monday night to some mild crampy contractions. When morning came they seemed fairly close together, but I decided not to time them or pay much attention to them. Glancing at the clock my mom estimated they were around 6-7 minutes apart. Around 9:30 my mom and I went to our fitness center to do our daily walk. While walking I started to note the time of each contraction. They were five minutes apart and by the end they got closer together and were harder to continue to walk through. I was supposed to teach at noon, so we spent most of our walk debating whether or not I should go into work. Knowing I had a long labor with Maddie, I thought I'd be perfectly safe. But I was also a bit hesitant because of my diagnosis of polyhydramnios (excessive fluid) that my water may break while teaching and that I may traumatize my students. (I read about a woman with the same diagnosis whose pants literally shot down to her knees from the pressure of the water coming out!)  When I got home from the walk, I went to the bathroom and lost my entire plug. I decided that was my cue to stay home.

I took a shower and relaxed with my little girl. I had my forty week check-up that afternoon which was a very convenient time to get checked and see how my body was progressing without having to go to the hospital. My midwife was running an hour behind schedule so I chased around my 19 month old daughter sat and waited impatiently while my contractions got closer and closer together. By the time she came in they were four minutes apart and I was starting to struggle to talk through them. These contractions were intense. I felt so much pressure in my pelvis and the pain radiated in my hips. I also felt them strongly right along my incision line which scared me a bit. My midwife reassured me that that pain was normal, that women who have never had c-sections feel pain there, and may be intensified by my own anxieties about uterine rupture. When she checked me I had indeed progressed since my last check up five days prior. At that appointment I was not dilated at all and baby's head was not engaged. I was now 80% effaced and dilated to a 1 1/2. Baby was also at a -1 station, so she was definitely engaged and ready to go. I was excited to be progressing and thrilled that my contractions were doing their job.

That evening they continued to get closer together and more intense. I went to IHOP with Brett, my mom, and little Madeline. It was so fun to get my mind off things, visit, and relax with my family. By the end of dinner I was wishing they would bring the check because it was getting harder to deal with contractions and I didn't want to start moaning in public. When we got home I took a hot shower, packed a few things just in case, and relaxed. I remember putting Madeline to bed thinking "this might be the last time it's just us". As the evening wore on I had to focus more and more through contractions. I rocked and used heat and massage to work through them. I took another hot shower all the while periodically timing contractions. Brett and I tried to go to bed, but they were far too intense while laying down. Around 1:00 am, with contractions 2 1/2 - 3 minutes apart and lasting 75+ seconds, we finally made our way to the hospital. At this point I was about 16 hours into labor.

We were shown to the triage room where they checked me. I had progressed since 4:00, although it wasn't much it was still progress. I was now 95% effaced, dilated to a 2+, and baby was still at a -1. They hooked me up to a monitor and told me they would time contractions for an hour and check me again to see if I had progressed.

Shortly after we heard a loud commotion in the hallway. "I have the head right here!" shouted a woman followed by a few screams and then the cries of a baby. A few minutes later our nurse came in to tell us a woman had just had her baby in the elevator on her way to labor and delivery. Just then a contraction came on and I said "I hate her." The nurse on staff said, "I would too."

Brett and I tried to rest while I relaxed through the contractions. I finally asked for a birthing ball. I set it up on the bed so I could rest my upper body and labor on my knees instead of flat on my back. That helped a bit and baby's heart rate improved as well. Finally the hour was up.

They checked me... and nothing had changed. I was given the option to go home with some pain meds so I could sleep, or I could stick around for another hour and see if there was any change. We decided to stay and walk the halls together.

The hour passed and I was checked again. I had effaced more but I still hadn't dilated enough to be considered in "active labor". They gave me the same option, walk the halls or go home with medication. It was now 3:00 am so we decided it would be best to get home so we could try to get some sleep. They gave me a pain pill and sent me on my way, with my contractions still 2-3 minutes apart.

I asked them when I should come back.

The nurse said, "When you feel a good pinch with the contractions."

Brett gave me a look that seemed to say, "So are you going to smack her or should I?"

Brett held my hand and supported me as we made our way to the car. On our way out I had another four contractions. They were right on top of one another.

As we passed the security guard on duty, he said, "Not tonight huh?" It took everything in my power to not curse at him.

Somewhere in the middle of the parking lot I nearly collapsed from the intensity of a contraction. Once it had passed I had tears streaming down my face.

Defeated I cried, "I don't know if I can do this Brett!"

He wrapped me up in his arms.

"How is this not active labor?" I asked him.

He held me and gave me the reassurance I needed.

When we got home I waited for the pain pill to take effect so I could sleep. I never did feel any relief. Which made sense later when we found out the medication they gave me was nothing more than Tylenol.  I finally sent Brett to bed so he could sleep and my mom rubbed my back as the contractions continued to come close together and get more intense. She helped me relax a bit, which helped with the pain.

I was surprised by how discouraged I was by being sent home from the hospital. I was even more surprised that things seemed to be on the same track as last time around.

I put on a few of my favorite movies as background noise and put a heat pack on my back. My mom stayed up with me for most of the night, sometimes briefly sleeping on and off and waking to help me through particularly "noisy" contractions.

Day Two: Wednesday, February 13th

The next morning Brett and I tried to rest. I was so exhausted from all the laboring that I was able to sleep briefly between contractions, though it was not a restful sleep. Finally around 11:00 am I drew a piping hot bath and slept in the tub for about an hour. When I came out the contractions had slowed down a bit and I was grateful for the rest.

My sister in law Katie came to the house to help and she brought her two adorable kids. It was so fun for Madeline to have some friends over and to get plenty of attention. Madeline was getting quite concerned seeing me in labor, so I was glad that she had a good distraction.

Brett and my mom kept asking when we should go back to the hospital. I did not want to get turned away again so I was not eager to go back in. By evening, Brett and my mom were growing concerned about me and the baby. The contractions were picking up again. I could overhear them talking in the kitchen while I tried to rest and work through contractions in the darkness of my bedroom. At this point I had been laboring for 34 hours or so.

I heard phrases like:
"This is a lot like last time."
"When does she want to go in again?"
"How do we know if the baby is okay?"

Finally, at the urging of Brett and my mom we made an appointment to see the on call midwife at the clinic to talk about our options and to have an NST on the baby.

When we got there we had a good chat with our midwife Claudia about my options. She talked with us well passed clinic hours and helped encourage me. She also gave Brett some reassurance and helped us work through the feelings we were both dealing with. It was a very good conversation. I never realized how difficult it must have been for Brett to see things going almost the same as last time around. I knew how the first birth affected me, but I didn't really think about how it must have affected him to see me go through all of that and how helpless that could feel.

She checked me again. I had made progress. Even though it was small it was indeed progress. I was dilated to a 3+ and fully effaced. Baby was now at a 0 station. Claudia recommended that I get some good sleep that night. After we did our NST for the baby to help give us peace of mind, she recommended that I get a shot of morphine to sleep.

At first both Brett and I were against it, but after talking about our options we agreed it would be best for me to get some good sleep. 

I got home, ate a quick dinner, and then Brett tucked me in to sleep. It was 7:00 pm and I had barely slept in the past 60 hours. I didn't wake till the next morning around 8:00 am. It was amazing.

Day Three: Thursday, February 14th

I woke up feeling incredibly well rested.  I stayed in bed as long as possible and then got into the shower. My contractions were still pretty close together. I sat on the ground and had the shower beating down on my chest and stomach. I got great relief from the contractions this way. I stayed there in relaxed meditation until we were out of hot water.

We decided to go into the clinic and have my membranes stripped to hopefully help strengthen contractions and get "active labor" going. (Whatever the heck that means).

Getting my membranes stripped didn't hurt one bit. The most nerve racking part about it was being anxious that my water would break. It didn't, and while on the drive home my contractions continued more consistently and intense.

A while after we got home Brett and I took a walk about my neighborhood. My contractions were consistently 3 minutes apart. By this point there was no way I could walk during a contraction. They literally stopped me in my tracks and Brett would stand close by and would either hold me, or turn so I could lean into him. The pressure I felt was so intense.  I can't think of how to describe it. We ran into several people from our ward. Everyone had heard I was in labor on Tuesday (some Beehives from the ward youth group had dropped by cookies at our house and Brett had mentioned I was in labor) so they were surprised to still see me pregnant.

That evening, before I went to lay down in bed my contractions were still very close together. When I went to bed the contractions slowed down but got much more intense. I couldn't lay down or sleep through them, but I still tried. Finally, around 1:00 am I woke up to a contraction that lasted well over three minutes. It was so intense that none of my coping techniques did a darn thing to help me. I finally gave in and let Brett take me to the hospital. If this wasn't "active labor" I didn't know what was.

When we got there they checked me. I was the exact same as I had been that morning. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. But I didn't want to get any more discouraged. After only being monitored for 10-15 minutes I asked to go back home. My midwife suggested that I get another shot of morphine to ensure I get a good night's sleep again. I didn't argue at all. I got home, ate another snack, tried to stay optimistic and once I felt the morphine taking its effect I went to bed and fell asleep immediately.

Day Four: Friday, February 15th

Brett had already taken two days off work, so I sent him off to work with the promise that if I needed him to come home I would call. I stayed in bed most of the morning and called a few friends for support.  I also prayed intently that I could get some rest from these contractions as I felt I had a difficult decision I needed to make. 

I called a close friend I met while taking my natural birthing class for Madeline. She is a natural birth junky and aspiring doula. We bonded well during our classes and have stayed in touch ever since. She knew my birth story well and we definitely share a very similar birth philosophy. As soon as she got on the phone she asked if the baby was here or on her way. I immediately started crying as I told her I was indeed in labor, but that it was going the same as last time. She gave me great advice and listened to me vent and cry. I confided in her that I was considering getting a c-section. She told me that I needed to take some time to pray, relax, and connect with baby to decide what was best for us. I didn't do this immediately. In a way I already knew the answer, but I think I was afraid of the answer. When I got off the phone, took another shower, and held my sweet Madeline.

If I was going to consider a c-section I wanted to consider who would perform the operation. Though we had OBs in the midwife group I didn't know them very well. I remembered that a close friend of mine named Robynn had seen the OBs at the same practice that I did and had a c-section with her last baby. I gave her a call. I had guessed the phone call would be a few minutes but it turned into around 20 minutes long.

After she told me about the OBs we had an incredible visit and talked about our different experiences of having unplanned c-sections. I was able to talk through my feelings and I knew that she understood because she went through something similar. When I had Madeline, I admit that part of my desire for a natural birth was for my own ego. I admit that I put far too much focus on the birthing part of becoming a parent rather than the what you do with the baby afterwards part. I had put natural birth on this pedestal and as I came to terms with my c-section I was able to realize that my worth as a mother had nothing to do with the way I brought my baby into this world. I was also able to admit to myself that a part of my decision to have a vbac had to do with "proving myself" and "making up" for last time around. By this point, my single wish was to have a vbac so that I could have as many babies as I want. I did not want a c-section to decide the number of babies I could have.

After I got off the phone with her I took some time alone in my bedroom to say a prayer. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for peace. I prayed for comfort.

I don't pray out loud by myself usually. But I decided to this time. "Heavenly Father, I have tried so hard for days to have this baby. I know that a c-section is the right choice for me now. Help me to feel at peace with this decision." As I said the words I felt at peace. I could feel the weight of this burden passing from me.  That was the confirmation that I needed.

I made the calls I needed to make to have everything set up.  When Brett got home I told him the confirmation I received. He said that he felt the exact same way. We said a prayer again together and felt at peace.

I took yet another shower. I did my hair and my make up. Then Brett and I put Madeline down for bed. We took our time and told her she'd meet her sister in the morning.

We drove to the hospital hand in hand. I felt strangely calm. We joked about how this was for sure the last time we'd be driving this route for a while. I was glad of that realization.

When I got there they started getting me ready for surgery. I went through my birth plan with the nurse and made sure they knew our preferences. I did my homework, and it was nice to be ready for a c-section for a change. The last time around we didn't even bring a camera because we were so exhausted and out of it.

I asked if it would be possible to have the drape lowered so I could watch the baby be born. She told me that in all the years she has been with Doctor Parker that she has never seen it done, but she would make sure that he held her above the drape as soon as she was out. I was sad that I wouldn't be able to have the drape lowered, but I knew it was a long shot anyway. It was still going to be a lot better than last time around, so I said thank you and felt very content with the plans we made.

They started to prep me for surgery and then it was time to go to the operating room. I hadn't received an epidural or spinal block at this point, so I walked to the operating room myself. Last time I went into an operating room I was flat on my back in tears while they wheeled me in. That entire experience was completely out of my control. This time, I was in control.

In the operating room I chatted with the anesthesiologist, nurses, midwife, and doctor. As we all waited for the spinal block to take effect, I asked if I could say a prayer. The nurses and doctors bowed their heads and I said a prayer of gratitude. I thanked my Heavenly Father for the peace that came with the decision and for the amazing group of people in room who would help welcome our baby into the world. I prayed that we would feel the comforting spirit and that the baby and I would be safe and my care providers would be able to do what they do so well. I don't remember everything I said, but I do remember the peaceful spirit and the smiling eyes of my careproviders when I finished. It was a great group of people and the feeling in the room was completely different than my last c-section.

When Brett came in he was excited and smiling. I was smiling too. There was no fear at all, only peace and an overwhelming feeling of the spirit. My doctor talked me through each step as he did it. I appreciated this so much. It helped me feel a part of the birth and not out of control. Brett and I held hands and smiled together.  After going through a c-section already, I knew what to expect and there was so much reassurance in that. But I couldn't expect what would come next.

"Let's lower that drape a bit."

What?! I couldn't believe this was happening.

"Lower than that. We want to make sure they can see this."

The drape was completely down on my chest.

"Now go ahead and take a look. Here comes her head."

He was giving me a gentle cesearean. The cesarean birth I so desperately wanted and that his nurse had said he did not do. I cried happy, happy tears. Was I dreaming? Brett and I couldn't believe it.

I looked down and saw her head and sweet face. She was beautiful.

He suctioned her mouth and on the next contraction he pulled the rest of her body out.

"She's not tiny!" He said as she came out.

I was laughing and crying. Brett squeezed my hand and kissed me.

I was smiling ear to ear. And I still felt no fear or anxiety. I was in awe of the incredible thing I had just experienced. It was magical. It was incredible.  I could see Claire getting cleaned off from the operating table. Brett went to hold her hand while they cleaned her off and weighed her. She was 9 lbs 1 ounce.

They cleaned her up quickly, wrapped her in a blanket, and Brett brought her over so I could give her a kiss.

Brett went with Claire to the nursery to keep her warm and take care of a few newborn things while they stitched me up. 

I relaxed on the table and marveled at what had just taken place. I had planned to have a healing experience from my last c-section. I had thought that the greatest way to heal would be by having a vbac. Though I did not have a vbac like I had planned, it was still an incredible healing experience. I was able to birth by cesearean and still feel completely connected and tied to my birthing experience. I felt empowered, not broken.

I saw her come out of me. I held her and kissed her immediately after she was born. She was brought to my recovery room almost immediately after I got there. I had a c-section on my terms. The decision was not made for me and given to me with grave faces. Instead, I listened to my body and to the promptings of the spirit to make my decision of what to do. I gave my body time to labor and when it came time to make the decision I was given clarity and confirmation through prayer. The last time I had gone into an operating room I was a broken woman. I was fatigued, hopeless, and powerless. This time I went in I was in control. I was ready. I was full of joy.

In the early hours of the morning we finally settled on a name; Claire Celeste. Originally we loved the name because of the way it sounded and we loved the idea of calling her Cece as a nickname. But as we visited together holding our baby girl in our arms, we thought about the meaning of the words. Claire means "light" or "clear". Celeste means "heavenly" or "celestial". So combined Claire Celeste means "clarity from heaven." It's fitting.