The World Health Organization recommends a cesarean section rate of no more than 15%. The current cesarean section rate in the United States is 31.3% according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than double the recommendation set forth by the World Health Organization. Sadly, that number continues to grow. Along with this number, the number of repeat cesareans continues to grow due to a lack of options in care, hospital bans on vaginal birth after a prior cesarean and caregiver preferences.
In 2007 and 2009 I had two cesareans due to a failed induction. At the time, I was unaware of the risks of induction and did not know that the artificial induction of labor may increase my risk of a cesarean section. I, like many women, was anxious to meet my baby and blindly trusted my doctors, only to find myself devastated with my birth experience as well as physically and emotionally crippled for a lengthy period of time. I knew one thing; I never wanted to experience that hell ever again.
With my third child, I wanted to give birth with a midwife in a birth center, but due to my history, state law prohibited it. I was fortunate to find a doctor (albeit five hours from home) willing to take me as a patient and respected my desires for a natural, vaginal birth. I gave birth naturally and vaginally to a 6lb 14oz baby girl without complication or induction six days following my due date.
With my fourth child, I found myself torn. I had such a positive experience with my previous birth, but I didn’t want to give birth in the hospital and I knew for a fact, local doctors would not accept me as a patient if they knew I was planning a vaginal delivery. I wanted a midwife, but due to state law, obtaining one would be tricky. I had three options; deliver in a hospital with a doctor, hire a lay-midwife (one not certified or licensed by my state) or deliver my baby unassisted. When I discovered my doctor from my previous birth would be out of the country on my due date, the decision became even more difficult.
As a birth professional, I felt knowledgeable and equipped to handle a great deal of scenarios, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle them for myself. However, I wasn’t willing to set foot in my local hospital, having had two prior cesareans. I knew it would be a fight to have a vaginal birth and that I would be up against a lot of pressure to consent to a cesarean due to my history and hospital policy. I didn’t want that. No pregnant woman should ever have to fight for her medical decisions to be respected, and she especially shouldn’t have to fight for them while she is in labor.
After a great deal of consideration, I decided I was going to have my baby at home, without a doctor, midwife or nurse. I bought a birth pool, borrowed a doppler from my friend Amanda, researched various complications and what to do (including that I was likely group B strep positive) and I formulated clear plans should an emergency arise. At first, I was scared. I was worried I was making the wrong decision. I was worried something might go wrong and I might regret it. But as the pregnancy progressed, my fears lessened and by the time labor began, there were none.
I had two student doulas present (non-medical labor support professionals), my husband, two of my sisters and a friend. My labor lasted 23 hours and I delivered Vada Jane, pulling her up out of the water on my own and to my chest. At first, she didn’t cry and I panicked as all those fears came rushing back. Then I heard what sounded like snoring. My companions started flashing cameras and next thing I knew, she was crying. Her birth had been so tranquil and peaceful, she fell asleep before I pulled her from the water.
Unassisted birth always seemed scary to me. Five years ago, I would have never considered it. Even with my last pregnancy, I was fearful at first, but now that I’ve done it and experienced what such a calm, relaxed, non-invasive, non-intrusive and comfortable experience it was, I wouldn’t have it any other way.