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  • Mary Keilman (A Doula Client)

{Birth Story} Hope for A Vaginal Birth

Where do I start?

My first two births were unplanned cesareans. I didn’t realize I had so much say in my birth plan and what my rights were as a laboring mother. I took my doctors words for it both times.

With my first, I was induced before my body was ready then almost immediately received an epidural which caused my body to fight itself and never progress passed 4cm. With my second, I walked into it more informed and even got to pushing. I had been feeling the lack of support from my doctor for a VBAC my whole pregnancy but figured if we were vocal about our wishes it would happen since I was a great candidate for one. Ultimately, my doctor's lack of support showed through in the final stages and it felt like he scared us into having to have a cesarean because I wasn’t moving along at a fast enough pace for him.

I’m grateful that my first two children were born healthy and there were no major complications. However, my birth experiences were anything but that magical moment every mother dreams of where your baby is born and they are immediately placed on your stomach then you start to cry, your husband cries, the baby cries. Instead, I lay strapped to a table and had to wait for doctors to finish stitching me up then wait in recovery for hours before I got to snuggle my babies.

This brings me to my amazing vaginal birth after two cesareans (VBA2C) story. When our youngest just turned one, we found out we were expecting baby number three. Not wanting to repeat my first two births I decided to take control once and for all. I didn’t even call my OB for my first appointment because I knew I didn’t want to go back to them. Instead I found a new doctor who was famously known for supporting mothers in VBACs and I immediately hired my friend Jessica of Natural Baby Doulas to be my doula. I was only 6 weeks pregnant and was like “put me on your calendar!” Jessica was pregnant also and due six weeks after me, but she said she would do her absolute best to be there for me. If not, I knew one of her doula partners would be there for me.

I researched more than ever on my own and read every website/article that was passed to me from my doctor and doulas. I knew if I really wanted this I had to come prepared and in the right mind set. I knew with two other kiddos, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them if I had to recoup from another cesarean.

I had an amazing pregnancy other than major heartburn. Baby and I were perfectly healthy, which brings me to my 39th week. I had my first two before their due dates so we were pretty certain I’d go into labor before May 14. My husband started his vacation time right before to make sure we’d be 100% prepared for when the first contraction hit. At my appointment that week we had my doctor check to see if I was effaced/dilated, however I showed no signs that labor was coming soon. Mother’s Day and my due date came and went that weekend. My father even flew in from Seattle to be here for the birth of his third grandson.

At 40 weeks plus 2 days we checked again to see if some sort of induction would be possible to move things along. However, I continued to show no signs that labor was in the near future. I started to stress since it felt like all the pressure was on me to have this baby. My husband had been off work for a week, my dad was in town, the babysitting window for help for our older boys was shrinking by the day and Jessica was looking like she was no longer going to be my doula since she was expecting her 4th bundle of joy any day too. I knew that the other doulas at Natural Baby Doulas would have me covered, but I really wanted Jessica to be there. Nothing was going as we had planned. I felt defeated as I reached 41 weeks and my dad flew back to Seattle not getting to meet his newest grandbaby but only getting to stare at a very pregnant and depressed daughter.

We tried every old wives tale we could think of and even some pretty crazy ones that people shared with us. Baby boy was perfectly comfy in there. Eleven days past my due date I decided that if he didn’t come on his own over Memorial Day weekend then I was going to have a cesarean. I called my doctor and had them add me to the surgical schedule for that following Tuesday. I sat in my car crying as I made this call but my husband had been out of work for two weeks and would need to return soon. I needed to have this baby soon or he wouldn’t get to spend any time at home with him or be able to help me with the other kids.

With the end in sight, and not the one I wanted, I decided to get an induction massage. I honestly didn’t think it would work but I figured I could use the massage to relax the tension I was carrying around since the weight of the world was on my shoulders. The massage felt amazing and helped to relax me and I kept my fingers crossed that it would do the trick. The next day I went for a pedicure too, hoping that maybe it would give my body that extra nudge. But it was all crickets both days. By 41weeks plus 6 days I had lost all hope. I was depressed and annoyed at the constant parade of messages from friends and family asking if I’d had the baby yet. More than anything, I was really annoyed by feeling like I had to justify my birth plan and explain why I really wanted to have a VBA2C and why I wasn’t being induced (I.e. since my body wasn’t showing signs of preparing for labor, my doc didn’t recommend induction since he said causing contractions when my cervix was “Fort Knox” would be like pounding on a locked door which would increase my chances of having to have another cesarean).

That Sunday I moped around and tried to prepare myself for surgery. Then at 8pm I had my first contraction. I didn’t get my hopes up or say anything because I’d had them before but it was false labor. So, I waited and carried on with getting the kids in bed. By 10pm I let my husband know that they were pretty regular and happening about 12-15 minutes apart. I messaged my doula saying “this is it” and we’d let her know when we were going to head to the hospital. My sister arrived a little after 2am to stay with the boys and Jason and I headed to the hospital. Contractions were still 7-8 minutes apart when we left but I was getting uncomfortable and just wanted to be where I needed to be before things got any more intense. We arrived at the hospital around 2:45 and my doula showed minutes later. To my surprise my friend and doula, Jessica, appeared by my side since her doula partner that was supposed to be with me was called into another birth! This immediately put me at ease; I knew I was in good hands. After they checked me and we realized I was 7cm dilated she went into doula mode and set the mood. She dimmed the lights, set up tea candles, sprayed some relaxing scents and her and my husband started messaging my legs to help me relax. I remember Jessica also telling me to keep my moaning sounds “low”. I had never gotten this far in my previous labors without an epidural so I had no clue what to do, I only remembered “to breathe” like the books said. I took her word for it and did whatever she told me to do. I was sweating like crazy from all the heavy breathing and she made sure I stayed hydrated. We tried to find a comfortable position for me but things were getting intense. That’s when she suggested we go to the bathroom. Walking to the bathroom was painful. The drop of the baby on my pelvis added a lot of pressure and the moment I sat down on the toilet my water broke. The second it burst I bit my husband in the stomach. We headed back to the bed and I remember hearing I was “in transition” at this point. I had no clue what that meant in the moment, my eyes were permanently rolled into the back of my head while I moaned “low and slow” like I was told. I just held onto the thought that my baby would be here soon. By 4:45 am, only two hours after arriving at the hospital, I was given the go ahead to start pushing with each contraction. I buckled down and pushed as best I could for not knowing what I was doing. We tried a few different pushing techniques but baby boy just wasn’t budging. My doctor then suggested he make a small incision to help him out. I was worn out and ready to see my baby boy, so I agreed. As described by my doula and husband, the moment the cut was made baby boys head “just popped out and then the rest of him flew out”. I didn’t even have to push again. I was so happy, but more in a state of shock that I actually did it. Cohen Ellis joined us at 5:41am, weighing 9lbs 4oz and 22in, our perfect bundle of joy!

I love all my boys and their birth stories because they made me a mom but this birth made me feel like a woman in a way I’ve never experienced before. For me, I finally felt the full power of what it means to be a woman and this amazing gift we have been given to be able to bring new life into this world.

I am forever grateful for my doula Jessica. I honestly believe her and her partners made all the difference in my delivery. The encouragement I received throughout my pregnancy was more than I ever hoped for, even at the end when I had pretty much lost hope, they were right there with me helping me cope. God heard my prayers and so many others the day before and delivered my son to me just as I had planned, completely natural!

Mary and C

Immediately after birth...

Mary, Jason, and C

Mary and C

Jessica and Mary

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