Delilah Marion Lee
My son, Calder, was born in the fall of 2007. For my first birth, my husband and I tried to do all the “right” things to prepare for a natural waterbirth—we researched hospitals with low c-section rates, hired a doula, and selected a nurse midwife practice for prenatal care. Calder was born at 41 weeks 5 days via c-section. While both Calder and I were healthy, I was devastated by this birth. I strongly felt we both had undergone an unnecessary c-section. I cried if I spoke of my birth or saw a birth movie. I was jealous of every friend who had a vaginal birth.
Fast forward a little more than a year….the night before I took my pregnancy test I dreamed that my best friend and I were both pregnant. I was thrilled to be pregnant. My husband and I both knew this baby was going to be a daughter! About a month later, my best friend said she was pregnant too!
As the midwife practice I went to when expecting Calder was one of the very few in the area that supported V-BAC’s, I felt I had no other choice but to return to them again. My pregnancy progressed without a hitch. I felt radiant and healthy. The baby was strong and active. Yet I dreaded my pre-natal appointments and felt pretty blue about the whole birth process. While I was absolutely certain I could birth my daughter vaginally, the circumstances seemed less than ideal. By choosing to have a hospital birth with the nurse midwife practice, I only had one choice of where I could deliver and I wasn’t allowed a waterbirth. I would also need constant fetal monitoring and an IV hep lock.
In July my best friend told me I need to look into other birth options. My baby was “due” Sept. 12th---I really felt there wasn’t any time to make a change… and I was scared of a homebirth. However, I decided to check out the Morningstar website. I had learned of them through ICAN and I hoped that maybe they would take on a V-BAC client.
Nicole answered my phone call and told me that women planning a V-BAC were absolutely welcome at Morningstar. I made an appointment to meet with Paula. The beginning of August, Matt and I met with Paula. She had this confidence, this really genuine confidence. She obviously had good technical skills but also this really palpable belief in a woman’s ability to birth her baby with both safety and dignity. She was unlike any other midwife I had met before. Matt and I decided that we would transfer care to Morningstar.
My prenatal appointments were in Edina. Matt and I attended two birth preparation classes in Menomonie. Paula listened to my questions and provided information about Strep B testing and Vitamin K that I had never known with my first birth. She spoke at length about V-BAC’s and the inner preparation I needed. My husband read “The Birth Companion” by Penny Simkin numerous times. I re-read Ina May Gaskin and all of my mom’s old 1980’s Mothering magazine articles on VBAC birth. I felt such incredible relief about our change in birth plans. Things finally felt “right”.
The middle of September arrived. No sign of our girl. I had frequent Braxton Hicks contractions throughout my whole pregnancy. They never got stronger but they were a constant presence. I definitely felt some anxiety about when Delilah would arrive. Since Calder was “late”, the anxiety about when labor would start was fresh in my mind. This time I felt anxious about where I would be when labor would start. My first birth had a first stage of roughly 4 or 5 hours. My pregnancy continued until I was 42 weeks, 5 days pregnant. I was very much over it all. In efforts to “naturally” encourage labor to start I had seen an acupuncturist three times, taken a homeopathic remedy, used evening primrose oil, drank a vile castor oil cocktail, and of course, good old induction sex. Our little girl was content. And Lord, I was big. AND OVER IT.
Fast forward two more weeks. Wednesday, Sept. 30th dawned crisp with a bright blue sky. Matt, Calder and I drove to our favorite waffle joint for breakfast. After eating I used the bathroom and realized I was loosing my mucus plug! I knew our girl would arrive within a day or two!
Early that evening I went to an acupuncturist appointment in Minneapolis. In the middle of this session I started to feel strong contractions. I left the appointment early, meeting Matt in the street by the bar he was waiting at. I yelled “I am in labor”. A man fixing his motorcycle next to me looked up, startled. We called Paula as we drove to our home in St. Paul. Within 20 minutes I had a hard time speaking. This was active labor. My mom would meet us at our home, as would Paula. She estimated that she was approximately an hour east of Menomonie.
At home I labored in the shower. At this point, contractions were completely centered in my back. With my first birth I felt that contractions were wildly intense, but not exactly painful. I always had described birth as a huge rush of power, what I imagine standing very close to a fast moving train would feel like. This time though, the intensity was painful and I had to concentrate so as not to not be overwhelmed by the sensation. I vocalized through the whole birth—deep deep sounds from my soul. Labor was so strong and so big I figured I was moving through the first stage very quickly. Paula sent another local midwife to check on me as she and her birth assistant Emily had run into bad traffic. Around 9 pm Paula arrived. I was really hesitant to get in the car and drive to Edina. At this point I was getting really close to the transition stage. Paula said we could stay at my home if I wanted, however I didn’t have anything ready and I really wanted to get in a birth tub, so we left St. Paul for Edina.
The rest of the first stage is a blur. I know I labored in various positions in the birth center…. The shower, the bed (grabbing the headboard with each contraction), walking up and down the stairs and finally the birth tub was filled and I got in. With both of my births I was able to labor in a birth tub. I tell every woman I know that she should try this. It really diminishes the intensity and allows better relaxation between contractions. The back labor was so strong that I was loosing concentration. A friend told me that when she gave birth she tried to feel the center of each contraction and then release into the pain. She said she knew when she had to get in a new position when she could no longer concentrate on the contraction. I was definitely at that point and moving wasn’t helping. Paula suggested that she and Emily inject sterile water under the skin in my back. She warned it would hurt a lot, but it would trick the nerve endings and I wouldn’t feel the contractions as strongly. Indeed, these four injections were the most painful part of my whole birth, but it really made a huge difference on how I would rate the pain of labor.
Within several hours of beginning labor I reached 10 cm and I definitely had an urge to push. So I pushed for the next seven or eight hours. During that time I felt a huge swing of emotions. At first I felt so much excitement at the prospect of birth being done and meeting my daughter. However, as I continued to push and push and push---- I began to feel anxious and at times I felt pretty desperate. Paula and Emily were a great team through this. Paula is really factual and calm. She doesn’t embellish things—she is not a cheerleader. She said maybe I would need to push a long time but that I could do it. Through this all they were frequently checking Delilah’s heartbeat and my blood pressure. It was very unobtrusive and reassuring. They are a calm and incredibly gifted team.
Time dragged on. My mom and Matt were good birth companions, rubbing my back, applying counter pressure, getting me honey and water. My mind was spiraling though. This is exactly how Calder’s birth progressed… hours and hours of pushing…. the end being surgery. At my lowest point, Paula instructed me to NOT push. She said I needed to save my strength and rest. For possibly an hour or two I breathed through my contractions. Later on I would learn that during this time my daughter (who was emerging acyclidic) receded and then turned into the correct position.
I don’t remember if I asked if we could try pushing or of Paula suggested it. I just remember that when it was time to push it took all of my strength and then some. Paula and Emily thought Delilah may have been caught behind my pubic bone so they had me lay on the bed with my feet on their shoulders. Also wrapped around their shoulders was a large bed sheet that I pulled as I pushed. Paula told me the baby was coming! I felt her head with my hand. For the first time I believed with my whole entire being that this baby would come out of my vagina. I was so tired though. Matt looked me firmly in the eyes and said “Carly you must push harder. You can push harder. We need to see Delilah’s eyes. She may have your grandma’s eyes.” At this point she crowned. That is a wild feeling--- totally primal and pretty scary. She was entering the world with her fist by her head. Paula tried very hard to get her to move her hand back, but she wouldn’t. After her head emerged, she slithered out easily. In the midst of a terrific thunderstom, my daughter, Delilah Marion Lee was born.
The third stage of birth is fuzzy in my mind. Delilah was quiet at first, and she was given oxygen. Looking back, she was given an Apgar score of 8 so she must have been absolutely fine. But I remember being concerned. I was weak and woozy. I think I may have had three shots of pitocin to curb the bleeding, which was heavy. Both Paula and Emily were very active and busy when Delilah emerged. Through the haze I strongly felt they knew exactly what to do. They handed me my little girl and I felt such relief. She was quiet but healthy. I was exhausted.
We rested with Delilah for several hours. I bathed. Matt and I held this mysterious little being. She had such deep blue eyes. Wise eyes. Observant eyes. I ate a bowl of soup. I have never been so tired yet so relieved and so very transformed.
A doula came home with us to make sure we were well. I called my best friend. All the stars in heaven aligned. I found out she too had given birth to her son on October 1st. Over the next few days Delilah and I rested continuously. While Delilah was observant from the start, she was also very sleepy for several weeks. We would nurse, rest, and repeat. I felt we both needed to recover from a powerful experience. Delilah made her way into this world through great perseverance. I felt that I not only birthed our daughter, but also somehow had undergone a rebirth of my son. The first month postpartum required so much rest to recover my strength. It was a hard time. I didn’t prepare for that. But, having a vaginal birth was the greatest triumph of my life and a great gift for our family.