I started working with Leah early in my second pregnancy after deciding to pursue a vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC) at home. My experience with my first birth was very rough – prolonged back labor, a textbook cascade of interventions, and a C-section after 35 hours. There were 20 to 30 people in and out of my hospital room during labor, all giving conflicting instructions. I was determined to go into my second birth with as much information as I could, and Leah was extremely helpful as I educated and prepared myself for the birth we wanted.
I spent much of my early pregnancy trying to find a doctor willing to provide dual prenatal care. Leah went out of her way to connect me to home-birth-friendly doctors and provide me with reassurance when doctors told me I’d never succeed, or that I was putting myself and our baby in danger.
Having dual-care really highlighted the difference between Leah’s care model and the typical doctor’s. Meetings with Leah were an hour long, while meetings with my doctor were five to ten minutes. Leah and her student stayed on top of not only my pregnancy, but also how my life surrounding the pregnancy was going. They helped me set and adjust exercise and healthy eating plans, commiserated with me on the inconveniences and minor ailments of pregnancy, and made my two-year-old daughter feel like part of the process throughout.
When, late in my pregnancy, baby was transverse and occasionally breech, Leah worked with me to find the best strategies to get into a more optimal position. She never pushed a specific procedure but always gave me evenhanded assessments of all the options available. She was honest also about the need to transfer to the hospital or consider a repeat c-section in a variety of “what-if” scenarios – she is not a “home birth at all costs” provider, and was ready to support us no matter where our birth ended up being.
My labor began at 12:20am two days before my due date. I had dreamed a sort of “pop” sensation. I woke and headed for the bathroom just in time, as my water had broken and I lost a large gush of fluid rapidly. No contractions right away, so I went back to bed with a heavy pad and waited. Within a few minutes, contractions began. I got up to make some tea and a snack while I timed contractions. They were 2-3 minutes apart and about 1 min long and I was having to breathe through them but could still speak freely.
I woke my husband and gave him the info, he decided to get up instead of getting a little more sleep. We called Leah and talked through a couple contractions. She asked us to call again in 30 minutes. We spent the time readying the basement and I tried lying on my side to rest – but this slowed the contractions to seven minutes apart.
Once Leah arrived around 1:45, I alternated sitting on the birthing ball and standing leaning over the couch. Contractions were strong but still spaced a bit. She recommended we all try to get a bit more sleep if possible, though I was full of nervous energy.
I dozed and contractions increased to where I was having to begin low “O” breathing and really ride through them. Leah’s student arrived and did a few checks of heart tones. I was able to doze and dream a bit between waves, and I made a goal of dozing until it was at least sort of morning. Just before 6am, we decided it was time to fill the birth pool and I went back to the birthing ball. I told Leah I was scared that standing would make the contractions stronger, and she reminded me that strong was good.
I went back to standing over the couch arm and immediately had major contractions and the urge to vomit. Vomiting while contracting was not a fun activity! Thankfully, the urge passed after two contractions, though the strength and length of contractions was increasing and I was fully moaning in “O” sounds throughout. I began to think fondly of a “simple” c-section, and started to do “labor math” and worry that I couldn’t bear another 20 hours of this. I focused on the idea that my body was producing the pain, therefore I was strong enough to endure it. My husband was right there reminding me to stay loose and moan low – LOW really made such a difference!
At this time, our daughter woke up and my husband talked to her about what was happening. As we had planned, Leah’s student called our friend to babysit, but got no answer! We gave her some breakfast and put on Madagascar (her favorite movie) in the background. She watched everything very calmly, even as my moans got louder and more intense. Our friend finally arrived partway through the movie as my contractions intensified.
I asked Leah whether the “rest” periods between contractions would go away as I got closer to pushing, so I could prepare myself. She said there would still be pauses, and I decided to switch to hands and knees against my birthing ball. Within a few contractions, I began to feel strong pressure and the urge to push.
Leah, her student, and the assisting midwife hustled to finish off the birthing pool, and I was already feeling “fire” by the time I got in the water. I had NO idea I was so close. The water wasn’t as warm as I hoped, but I was already beyond stopping and pushing was happening regardless. Leah checked me for dilation (the only vaginal exam we did the whole time!) and said I was clear. I laid my head on the edge, pushed down with my hands, and pushed like crazy. My husband was right there leaning against me over the edge. Our friend started taking pictures.
I could feel her making progress but it hurt and the pressure was so crazy. I thought my hips might break apart. She began to crown and Leah had me feel her head. I kept thinking, “the only thing that will make this stop is getting that baby out!” When I felt her start to slip back, I redoubled my pushing, sometimes so hard I lifted my knees off the bottom. Leah asked me to “hee-hee-hee” but then decided my body was moving at a safe pace and said to push when I felt the urge.
Now I was impatient and it was almost hard to wait the few seconds between pushes. My husband moved behind me to catch her. I made the most phenomenal push and felt her head go – Leah helped my husband catch her and slide the cord off her shoulder as she slid out. Then she SWAM to my arms and I held her as she pinked up and began to cry. It was so unreal. I was deliriously happy but also couldn’t believe it actually happened.
We warmed her up while waiting for the placenta, and I stood up to push it out when it didn’t come right away. We all moved to the couch and she latched on to nurse almost instantly. After about 7 hours of labor, I had a 2nd-degree tear but no other issues for me or Coral!
Leah and her staff made recovery so much easier, too – they came back to our house over the next week to check on us and do the various newborn and postpartum screenings, so we didn’t have to leave the house until our first pediatric visit.