Sunday, August 16, 2009

Henry's Birth or Our Unassisted Home Water Birth After 4 Cesareans

To really tell the story of Henry's birth I have to back up, way back to when I was pregnant for the first time.

(My last before picture taken at 40 weeks.)

When Kent and I first married we were informed that responsible married people used some form of birth control and that the "pill" was the best option. About a month before our wedding I went to the dr and got my prescription. We were already viewed as "crazy teens" because we were tying the knot a few months before our 19th birthday (we're 5 days apart). The first month I was on the pill, I gained 10 pounds. I also had terrible headaches. I went back to the doctor and got a prescription for a lower dose. I was never informed of any risks by the doctor, only given a pamphlet and told that "most of the stuff in there rarely happens".

(Henry immediately after birth.)

Fast forward 2 years and while still taking the pill, I conceived. Just a few short weeks after sharing our news with the world, I miscarried. I was 8 weeks and went to a local OB. This doctor has his own ultrasound equipment. What was to be the first pictures of our child showed a baby that had already passed. Based on his size he had only been dead a few days. I remember spending the next several days crying. I didn't want a D&C. I prayed that God would spare our child and this was somehow a mistake. We both did not want any procedure that would remove a child that God could heal or revive. After two days I began to physically miscarry and we had no idea what to expect. I called the OB's office and was advised to go to the hospital. I remember after being discharged (I had a D&C). Kent suggested we rent a movie to take our minds off our terrible day. We watched the Disney version of The Jungle Book that night. I didn't want to laugh or cry or really be entertained. I just wanted something to pass the time.

(Kent calling everyone with the new of Henry's arrival)

After that loss we studied the information supplied with my prescription that "responsible" people took and decided that even if it might have possibly played any role in our child's death, I would never take them again. My headaches improved but it took 6 months to conceive again much to our dismay.

In April of 2001 our first child, Madisyn, joined us. Because of our (mostly my) lack of knowledge she was delivered via cesarean section. I read lots of pregnancy books and surfed tons of websites but I didn't read anything that didn't suggest that a woman was insane to have a baby without an epidural.

The morning of April 23rd I woke up and felt "damp". I thought I was leaking fluid and had a few mild contractions so we headed to the hospital. We had to wait until the admissions office opened to check in. I was 11 days from my due date. I was barely dilated but having contractions that showed up on the monitor so I was told I could stay and have a baby today. What pregnant momma wouldn't jump at that opportunity?!? I now realize that I set myself up for failure. I wasn't in pain so I should have gone home. I got an epidural so I wouldn't become one of those loud, rude pregnant women in front of all my guests. I think at one time we had over 15 people waiting.

(Alert little guy.)

The problem with an epidural is you can't move. I sat in the hospital bed for 20 hours. I was fully dilated and though I was feeling plenty of pain (and did become the loud, rude pregnant woman), I wasn't able to push Madisyn out. She was stuck. It turned out she was posterior. My doctor had suggested to us several weeks before that we schedule a section but we declined. Now I had been in labor for 22 hours, hadn't had anything to eat or drink the entire time, and had a room full of people waiting to meet our daughter. The section route was offered again and we were told that if I delivered Madisyn it was possible that her shoulder could be broken. Notice the important words Possible and Could. Unfortunately, at that time I only heard broken and agreed to a section. What momma wants to think of her newborn with a broken bone? I would have let them cut me from head to toe to prevent that.

(Kent surprised at Henry's weight.)

My recovery after Madisyn wasn't too bad. I had friend that had her first child 5 weeks later and this poor lady could barely walk because she tore so badly. I was told by several people that they knew people who had cesarean and vaginal deliveries and the cesareans were much easier. So when baby #2 came along I agreed to a repeat section because I could have a uterine rupture and both me and my baby would die. I remember being prepped for surgery and thinking "This is a mistake". I didn't listen to my inner voice and who can feel regret when you are holding a perfect little bundle in your arms.

(Henry getting checked out by our midwives, Lynda and Dee.)

4 years from my first delivery I had baby #3. #1 and #2 were 9 lbs 6.5 oz and 8 lb 10 oz so I prayed for a smaller baby this time. Kent and I discussed not going to the hospital until I was in labor. By this time I had heard of people having vaginal deliveries after cesareans but I stopped all thoughts of having one when my doctor told me that his wife had 4 sections. If the OB would have his wife deliver this way - it must be better, right?

Between baby #3 and baby #4 we had another loss. This time it was a beautifully, perfectly formed little girl named Mallory Rae who went to be with the Lord at 20 weeks. We had previously found out she was a girl and I returned four weeks later for a regular check-up when we discovered there was no heartbeat. Devastated doesn't even begin to describe the pain I felt. We had experienced an early miscarriage before but this time we were out of the "danger zone" of the first trimester. I had seen her moving on the screen just a few weeks before. I was induced the next day and after spending the entire day in the hospital I finally felt a few contractions. Mallory was delivered about an hour after labor began. Anyone who believes a baby is not really a baby until birth should see what we saw. She was so perfect. Nothing about her little body showed any sign of damage or deformity. I can still see her perfect little hands that I would never feel grasp mine.

A few months later, I conceived and had my fourth cesarean. Kent and I discussed multiple times just not going in for a section but we were weak. We had no support and just felt we couldn't do it on our own. Besides, we had three perfect children and cesareans were so safe......right?

A year after baby #4, I suffered another early miscarriage. I had been for my first check-up at 12 weeks where we found no heartbeat. Having seen the screen without the flashing heart twice before, I knew immediately that we now had 3 children sitting at the feet of Jesus. Even knowing that I will meet them one day in heaven, a mother still mourns for the person she will never know. This time we handled the complete miscarriage at home. I think that was a turning point in our thinking. If we could handle a miscarriage at home alone despite all the risks, then maybe with help we could have a birth at home.

(Getting footprinted.)

In the time since we had stopped using the pill, I joined an e-mail group on . One day I was reading and I saw a woman who had listed in her signature that she was planning a Vaginal Birth After 4 Cesareans. I wasn't pregnant but I e-mailed her for more information. We exchanged a few e-mails and I shared her story with Kent. We decided when the time came we would search out other options and would consider traveling to her doctor in Texas if necessary.

Just two months after our 3rd loss, I was expecting again. I think I was five weeks pregnant when I started calling the list of midwives I had found. The first (and last) person I talked to was Lynda. I loved everything I read on her website. She was a Christian, which was extremely important to us, but I also felt at ease talking to her. She agreed to be our midwife and we began to develop a relationship through my prenatal visits. We took a Bradley childbirth class and were amazed to learn that after 4 term deliveries we were clueless when it came to natural birth. I can't recommend a childbirth class enough. Even if someone wants a hospital birth, knowing what the options are and how a woman's body works during delivery is so worth the time and money investment. I can assure you that what we learned in our childbirth class changed our lives and the lives of our children. They won't be as uneducated as we were.

(Kent checking out a cleaned up Henry.)

My first two children were born 10 days before their due dates and the next two were born about 3 weeks early. I was convinced that baby #5 would be early as well. I had gone into labor 3 times and expected a repeat of the early trend. When I was 37 weeks I had contractions that kept me up all night. They were strong. I sat in the bathtub until 2 am when Kent encouraged me to try to lay down. I eventually fell asleep. The next day I called Lynda and filled her in on the previous nights happenings. She came over and did an exam and found me 1-2 cm dilated. She and her assistant thought we would have a baby within a week. Unfortunately, all I got that week was a virus or infection. My former OB delivered scheduled sections 10 days before their due date. When that 10 day mark came and went I was really doubting my decision. Thankfully, Kent never did. The next two weeks were very difficult. I was being called and asked constantly if "anything" was happening. I felt like I was the huge white elephant in the room and I wanted to ignore it. I would cry after being told I needed to walk or rest or whatever else someone felt would bring on labor. I was tired, sore and DONE.

On May 26th, I changed my attitude. I'm still not sure what happened but I told Kent that morning that I was willing to go to 42 weeks before seeking "help". The recovery after 4 sections didn't compare to the first and I didn't want to think about what the recovery after 5 would be like. I had determined that this baby was content to stay in as long as possible.

Madisyn had been taking piano lessons and we decided that with a new baby coming we would take the summer off. Her last lesson was to be on May 26th and Kent had promised to go to one with her. Since this was the last lesson, off they went. They left around 2:30 and I put the boys down for naps. I wanted to nap myself and Ben was already asleep. I laid down around 3:00 and kept hollering at Ty and Griffin to be quiet. I would almost drift off and then I would hear a noise from their room.

At 3:30 I was in a half asleep state and felt a "pop". I really can't describe the feeling but I immediately felt wet. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom. I don't think I had moved that fast in months! I managed to not get any fluid on the bed and called Kent. The first time I called I didn't get answer. I was a little concerned but waited a minute (ok maybe it was 5 seconds) and called again. He answered in a very hushed voice as Madisyn was in the middle of her lesson. I told him my water broke and that I had one contraction. He asked me if I was sure :) and I assured him this was the real deal. He needed to pick up a few supplies from Walmart and would head home as soon as possible.

(One more picture with Lynda and Dee before he fell asleep.)

I called Lynda and told her the news. I think she was as excited as I was. I had a few contractions about 5 minutes apart but I hadn't been officially timing them. She wanted me to keep track of the length and let her know what the real stats were. I gathered supplies (pen, paper, etc) but I couldn't find a watch with a second hand. I remembered a techie guy from our childbirth class had told us about . I finally got the computer connected to the internet and started timing contractions. Lynda called back and wanted me to check the baby's heartbeat every thirty minutes. I managed to check it at 4 and again at 4:30. By this time the contractions were less than 3 minutes apart and Kent still wasn't home!

At 5:00 my knight in a shining pick-up truck arrived. He came in the house, checked on me and let the boys up from nap. He had Madisyn do some light housework and put away their Walmart purchases. We checked the heartbeat again and he talked to Lynda when she called again. Kent let me believe that she was well on her way. He left our room to go help Madisyn and I called him back. I was getting no break between the contractions.

I started out in our jacuzzi tub but planned to move into an inflatable tub in our room when real labor arrived. He suggested I get in the birthing tub but I was unwilling to wait for him to get the hoses to fill it up so I climbed in the regular tub. The plan was that I would get some relief while he filled up the softer tub. The thing is, once I got in I couldn't get out. We don't have a clock in our bathroom so I don't know what time different things happened. Our plan was to call someone to get the kids and let family know that something was happening after Lynda confirmed that we were really going to have a baby. I had had too many hours of Braxton Hicks to have a living room full of people and no baby. :) I did call my sister because she is 2 hours away. My in-laws were out of town so Robin was going to be our back up for the kids if my brother-in-law Kirk couldn't make it.

Sometime after I got in the tub Kent asked if I wanted someone to get the kids. I quickly said yes. I couldn't believe how sensitive I was to noise and lights. The kids were being really good and making little to no noise but it seemed like a crowd was beyond our bedroom door. The water in the tub was leaking out and I couldn't stand for the faucet to be turned on. I didn't want Kent to leave my side to go get the hoses for the other tub. I had selected some classical music hymn cds to listen to while in labor. Kent turned on the music and I nearly jumped out of the tub. I wanted it dark and quiet.

Kirk came and picked up the kids and I remember feeling like he had no business in my house. It really bothered me that he was there, which is strange as I have a great relationship with him. I didn't want anyone there. At this point the contractions had been non-stop for about an hour and I was really doubting my ability to have a baby and my decision to not have a repeat section. I knew that when I hit transition I would further doubt that I could do it. I didn't think I could possibly be there yet. I had hoped for a "short" 10 hour labor but planned for longer. Lynda wasn't there yet so I couldn't possibly be in transition. I also knew that transition was the "hard" part. I thought I was about 5 cm dilated so I was dreading what was coming. I was absolutely miserable.

At some point I switched ends of the tub. One end is deeper than the other and I was running out of water. (We removed bath tub drains a few years ago when we heard of a little boy who was Griffin's age at the time, drowning in the tub. Now we just stuff a wash cloth in the drain when we use the tub - which, when I'm not pregnant is extremely rare.) Again, Kent offered to add more water but it almost seemed that the faucet was inside my head. The sound of running water and the pain of the contractions was more than I could take. This entire time Kent was awesome. He never acted even excited. LOL He was very calm and reassuring. He talked with Lynda and her assistant several times. I know at one point he talked to them and let me think they were between Parkin and Wynne. (about 30 minutes away) He just said they weren't really sure exactly where they were so I said "oh, like Parkin or something?". He didn't correct me. After the birth, he confessed that at that time they hadn't even crossed the Mississippi River. ( hour and half away) He knew that if I knew they weren't going to make it, I would have completely flipped out. My present state of flipping out was all he wanted to deal with. ;)

I realized that the contractions seemed to be letting up and I had an urge to push. Kent called Lynda again and they said that if I felt the need to push to go ahead. I'm not sure how often they called after this point but it was pretty regularly. I remember screaming through several of my pushing contractions. It wasn't that those particular contractions hurt more than the previous or the next but I needed to let off "steam". I felt as though I could explode at any moment. Lynda phoned during one of those screams and said that if I was doing that the baby was coming now. A few minutes later Kent got a concerned look on his face and asked if he could turn on the light. I said no. He told me he really needed to check on something and I could close my eyes (which were closed most of the time anyway). When he turned the light he looked relieved and said "Stacy, I see hair. I was afraid it was blood but it's hair." I told him he was wrong as I was still in denial that I was having a baby now! He told me to reach down and feel. I couldn't believe it! I felt a little head with hair! As the baby was crowning I felt a burning sensation. Between the next contraction Kent helped me to sit up as I had been on my back. I think I lasted sitting through one contraction and fell to my side. I honestly could not move.

At some point Robin arrived and asked if everything was ok. Kent told her it was and she sat in the living room. I honestly forgot she was even there!

When Kent saw that I was about to deliver he kicked his boots off and jumped in the tub. Lynda had given him a few pointers. He scooped the baby up and placed him on my chest. I asked "Is it a boy or a girl?". Kent responded that we had a boy. I asked him if he was sure. LOL He said yes he was sure. I was sure that Madisyn was going to get a little sister this time. Wasn't I surprised!

Lynda told Kent not to worry about cutting the cord, that she would take care of all of that when she arrived. Kent told Robin she could come in and he got me warm wet towels to cover up with as all the water was gone at this point. Walter Henry Witcher was born at 7:07 pm. He was very alert and was looking around but he didn't cry. I was concerned about the lack of crying. Again Kent was extremely calm and said "Stacy, if he's looking around like that - he's fine." I couldn't argue with that. When Robin came in (and started taking pictures ;) ) I remember saying over and over, I did it, I had a baby, I had a baby and he came out like he was supposed to. It was all so surreal. Just 30 minutes earlier I had told Kent that this would be our last child and now I was talking about how I couldn't wait to do it again!

Lynda arrived about 20 minutes after Henry was born. At that time they cut the cord and helped me out of the tub. Robin got to hold Henry while I was moved to the bed and I think she thoroughly enjoyed herself. :) As soon as he was born, Robin called my parents and Kent called his. I nursed Henry and then Robin got to hold him again while Lynda checked me out. I had a small tear and some bruising but otherwise was in fantastic shape. Henry looked so small to us. Kent, Robin and I had all guessed that he would weigh around 7 lbs. We were quite shocked when Kent held the scale and it registered 9 lbs 2 oz. The grandparents and siblings arrived and we had a good time having everyone guess his weight. No one was even close!

(Checking out my perfect little man.)

Henry was awake and alert for at least 3 hours after his birth. I never had to work to get him to nurse. With our other kids I would take their clothes off, change their diaper, or even get out a wet washcloth to wake them up enough to nurse. Not Henry! He seemed to come out with everything figured out. He set himself up on a nursing every 3 hours schedule. He has been our easiest baby and I couldn't be prouder.

(My sweet little boy.)

I have a lot of regrets about not seeking a home birth with our other children but I know that those experiences made me who I am now. I felt that this was my last chance. If I didn't do it now, all hope of a future natural delivery would be gone. I honestly could not have done it first of all, without God and secondly without my husband. Even when I doubted myself and my decisions, he didn't. He supported me through it all. He gave up two months of Saturdays to attend a class and never faltered when he realized that he was delivering our child. All the things I had been concerned about (what to wear during labor, having others around during labor, etc) never even happened much less caused any problems. I can't express how wonderful it was for Henry's birth to be attended by his parents only. It's a moment we will treasure forever.


  1. Stacy, that was absolutely beautiful! What a precious story you have to share. Henry is adorable.

  2. Thanks! We feel the Lord orchestrated every bit of his birth and I hope it can encourage someone else.

  3. How incredibly precious! What a blessing!!!

  4. Wow! I have tears in my eyes! That was beautiful!

    If we ever have anymore, I only want Mike there, too.

    You guys did great!

  5. Thanks for sharing! What an inspiration to other VBAmC moms.
    (I'm on the VBAC hope list)

  6. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us at vbac-hope!
    Lisa, mom of 10:
    #1 and 2 in hospital
    #3 - 7 at home
    #8 - C-section
    #9 and 10 water HBACs

  7. omg stacey i am so bawling right now....having been thro miscarraiges before ava and olivia and losing a 4 1/2 month old between the two, and having had very difficult pregnancies and 2 c-sections with difficult recoveries i really feel your pain and also wish i had had natural births. i felt at the time b/c of my age and history my body would not have withstood a difficult labor and felt i needed to err on the side of safety for the girls. now i think i may have felt an even greater invesment in their lives.avoiding the pain of childbirth is symbolic of mans constant need to dull the pain of sins consequences. to experience these things is to live in faith and understanding. thanks so much for your story. i think vicki and kenneth did a great job with those boys!!

  8. I read in awe... I got to your realisation... 3 children at the feet of Jesus and I just could not concentrate on reading any more, the way you put it is just the most beautiful sentiment.

    I take my hat off to you, not only for being a mother to such a brood (I have 3 - that is more than a challenge for me!), but for your courage to tell the world of your life, and your resolve.

    All I can think, is a beautiful image, of 3 children waiting for you to take their hand and meet your Heavenly Father and his Son.

  9. You're an encouragement to me! This July I will be attempting a vba4c and its stories like yours that keep me from thinking that I'm crazy! My husband and I want to allow our Lord and Saviour to grow our family so we would like to avoid another c-section if at all possible. Its in His Hands and we're trusting in Him! Thank you for sharing!

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