Major's Birth Story: Unmedicated VBAC

Two things you should know to preface this story.

First, I was planning a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after C-section).  I've talked about this a ton on the blog, see here and here.

Second, until I was about 38 weeks pregnant, I had planned on having an epidural.  It didn't really even occur to me not to.  Then for some reason, I guess maybe I was reading something online about VBAC, I started second guessing myself.  For starters, there is some thought that an epidural can slow labor.  Because of being a VBAC patient, I would have to have continuous fetal monitoring and an epidural could make it seem like the baby's heart rate had slowed.  It would be hard to tell if it was because of the epidural or the baby, so that could make the hospital want you to go ahead for a C-section to be safe.  An epidural would likely set off a chain of interventions, and my goal was to have as few interventions as how could I willingly agree to the biggest intervention of them all?
I also thought about all of the women I was looking to for guidance for my second birth.  My midwifes, the doula group, all of the stories I was reading online.  It seemed like everyone I was so respectful of their opinions, were pro natural birth.  I thought, if I am taking their advice about everything else...I'm going to the chiropractor, I hired a doula, I'm using evening primrose oil, etc...I'm doing all this stuff to increase my chances of a VBAC, why would I completely write off that I could do a natural birth?  My other thing...I am one of those people who always reads the fine print.  I looked up the disclosure I would have to sign to receive an epidural. All of the side effects terrified me!  I didn't feel comfortable signing my name to a document saying, "yes I understand all of these side effects, and yes I understand because I'm pregnant they can all be passed to my baby."
(I realize the same would probably be true if I read the side effects of any medication...which is why I've sworn off webMD.)

Even though I had an epidural with Shepherd, like I've said, I had no idea what I was doing that whole time.  And when you don't know whats happening, ignorance is bliss.  Now I knew how an epidural would make me feel.  Yes it was nice to not feel pain, but I hated the feeling of not being able to move my legs.  I couldn't wrap my head around how I would be able to push if I couldn't feel anything.  I knew people obviously do it just fine, but it just didn't make sense to me.

I texted my doula, Sierra, and said, am I crazy to decide this far along in pregnancy, when I could go into labor at any minute, to have a natural birth?
She called me almost immediately and was so supportive and encouraging.  A good point she made was that classes and reading books and stuff like that, while it would be helpful when planning a natural birth, are not requirements.  I told her I was really just scared of the pain.  The thing she said that resonated with me the most, was that I didn't want to be motivated by fear.  I was really motivated by love, my love for Major, by wanting to have the birth experience I wanted, and bring him into the world in the best way possible.  My fears were all "what ifs."  I immediately thought of 1 John 4:18.
"There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
That verse is what I kept coming back to during my entire labor.  Sierra offered to bring by some books she had on preparing for a natural birth, and I spent the next few days soaking up as much information as I could.  I think something that was really helpful was understanding how the body works during labor, and the stages of labor.

I'm someone who literally has small panic attacks the entire day before I have to have a vaginal exam at the gynecologist.  I couldn't imagine actually feeling everything that happens to push a baby out.  I was still so scared of the pain, that I decided I would go into it with my goal being to have a medication-free birth, but that I wouldn't feel bad if in the moment I wanted an epidural.

OK, so theres that.

You guys, I'm just going to warn you.  This is wordy.  But I am so happy with how everything turned out that I want to remember every little detail.  Here you go.

I'm going to loosely say labor with Major started on Saturday night, January 18th.  I started having contractions that I could tell were different than Braxton Hicks.  They felt a little different and were kind of regular, but not painful and I was able to go about my business no problem.  So Saturday night all the way through Tuesday I was having contractions, but again, not a big deal.  I was able to sleep at night, they would get more regular at night and during the day fade in and out.  

Tuesday they started getting really bad.  By Tuesday night, they were so painful I would drop to my knees every time I would have one.  They lasted about a minute every time.  We went to bed and I was hoping to just get some sleep.  I could already tell I was going to have back labor.  I had back labor with Shepherd and this felt the same.  Every contraction hit me in my back and it was so painful.  When I laid down to go to bed, I would almost be asleep and every 10 minutes or so a contraction would hit, waking me up.  The most comfortable way for me to deal with each contraction was on my hands and knees, so I would "jump" out of bed and try to get on the floor.  I was huge, our bed is really high and it was so hard to make it to the floor.  Annoyed and realizing I wasn't going to be able to fall asleep and I was going to keep Joey up all night, I decided to just go downstairs.  I sat on my birthing ball and did some of my exercises from my natural birth book and timed my contractions.  My midwife had told me that when my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart I should call the office, just to give them a heads up.  Well timing my contractions they got to be about 7 minutes apart but not completely regular so I knew I had a long way to go.  I sat up in the living room all night long on Tuesday night.  It was miserable! There is nothing on TV that time of night, not that I could concentrate on it anyway, so I watched Juno.  I didn't like that movie at all, but it came on and I was literally in too much pain to change it.  Every time I would have a contraction I know I looked like I was possessed!  I had no idea how to manage the pain and would get on my knees and lean over the couch, flailing around to try and get any relief.

Wednesday morning I told Joey to stay home from work.  I was convinced I would be having a baby that day.  I also had not slept all night and knew I couldn't handle having contractions all day and taking care of a toddler.  I had already called my mom and told her to plan on coming here after she got off work.  I had a doctors appointment at 2:30 so Joey was able to go with me.  I thought for sure my midwife would say, "oh you are so close!! we are having a baby today!"  We got to the office and my midwife had just been called out to deliver a baby.  I said I would wait (it was snowing and I had no desire to leave and come back).  They wanted to hook me up to a non-stress test while we waited.  Even though I'd been having contractions on and off and not had any sleep from them, of course the entire time I'm hooked up to the machine I don't have any contractions.  I had one right before and right after, but none while I was hooked up.

Anyway, my midwife gets there and checks me.  I'm 3cm and 80% effaced and the baby is very high.  She says that I'm not really in labor because my contractions were not regular.  She tells me that I'm definitely not having this baby today and probably not tomorrow either.  I burst into tears.  What in the world was last night for?!  How am I not in labor?? How can you have such painful all night contractions that you can't sleep, but you're not close to having a baby?  Whats the point!?  I was so upset.  And I was so tired.  I said I just wanted it to be over.  At this point I was 39 weeks + 6 days pregnant.  It was so disappointing to go through all that work and only be 3 cm.

We left and I called my mom and told her nevermind, I would just be pregnant forever and she didn't have to drive up anymore.
We went home and I was dreading having another night like the one before.   I was still having contractions that would stop me in my tracks and I would have to breathe through them.  That night Joey made me a pallet on the floor of our bedroom.  I wanted to try and sleep on the floor since being on my knees was still the best way for me to get through a contraction.  My midwife had suggested taking a benadryl to help me get some sleep, so I was hoping that would work.

Joey went to sleep, and I tried to.  The contractions hurt so bad.  Just like the night before, I had no idea how to handle the pain, and I know I looked like a crazy person every time they would hit.  I would lean against our dresser and moan and throw my body every direction to try and make myself feel better.  Around 3am I couldn't take it and woke Joey up.  I wanted him to start timing them.  They were still irregular...10 minutes, 2 minutes, 8 minutes...
I still don't understand that.  Somewhere around 4am I threw up and it freaked me out a little bit because I know that can be a sign of transition.  We decided to call Sierra, my doula.  If this was not labor I was going to die.  I called her and explained everything that was happening.  At one point I had to hand the phone to Joey because I was having a contraction.  She could hear me and said she would go ahead and come over.  This was the night the weather was really bad!  It was snowing and icing, but she got to our house within an hour after I called her in the middle of the night!

When Sierra got there, as soon as I had a contraction, she pushed as hard as she could against my back for counter pressure.  It felt amazing!  Well I won't say amazing...but it relieved so much of the pain.  That was one of my main reasons for hiring a doula.  Someone who knew how to alleviate pain.  Joey tried and he was a big help, but its not like he's trained in stuff like that!  Even though at this point I had been having contractions for almost 5 days and handling them on my own...from that point forward I had to have Sierra with me at all times!  I could not go through one more contraction without her.  She was amazing.  She set up a little mountain of pillows on the floor for me and we found my heating pad. I laid on the pillow mountain with the heating pad on my back and she rubbed my legs with a paint roller.  I know that sounds weird, but it was literally the most relaxing thing.  I was having pains in my legs too and this helped with that.  It was so relaxing!

Some people worry that getting a doula would replace the role of your husband.  That was absolutely not the case.  She helped show us other ways for me to deal with contractions, like leaning on Joey standing up, but for my back labor, what felt the best was having her push against my back as hard as she possibly could...and Joey was too afraid he would hurt me to really do that effectively.  So I would lean on him and she would use counter pressure.  Also, at this point Shepherd was awake so someone had to watch him.  Joey stayed with Shep and Sierra stayed with me.  I really don't know what we would have done without her.

So we go through the day much like that.  For awhile I was having a really bad contraction, then 2 minutes later having a shorter not so bad contraction, then 10 minutes later having another bad contraction but not the worst.  So they were coming in sets of three about every 10 minutes.  It was nice when they had a pattern because I could kind of mentally prepare myself.  Around lunch time my sister in law, Caity came over.  Joey left to get us lunch at Panera, although all I wanted was a smoothie.  I have never been able to eat during any type of stressful event.  I physically cannot eat.  So at this point it is Thursday afternoon and I haven't slept since Monday night, and I've barely had anything to eat.

Shepherd was so upset seeing me in pain.  We tried to keep him in another room for the most part, but he still saw me having contractions.  Poor little thing.  Seeing his mom moan and move like a crazy woman and a stranger pushing as hard as she could on my back.

After everyone ate lunch, I decided I wanted to take a shower.  I knew I would be in a bad mood if I had dirty hair when I gave birth.  Although at this point I still thought I might not be in labor!
I always wanted to be someone who gave birth with my hair done wearing lipstick.  That did not happen.  I could barely take a shower the contractions hurt so bad.  The last thing I could do was put on makeup.

My midwife's office closed at 5.  My midwife had told me that if I went into labor during office hours, they would rather see me in the office before I went to the hospital.  Joey called the office to say we wanted to come in, and the nurse asked how close my contractions were.  At this point, they were averaging 6 minutes apart, but Joey lied an said they were closer together so they would see me.  They would be 10 minutes, then I would have one in 2 minutes and it would bring my average down.  Sierra had downloaded a contraction timer app on her phone which was how we were timing them.

At this point my mom was on her way.  The three of us, me, Joey and Sierra were going to go to my midwife's office, and Caity was going to stay with Shepherd and wait for my mom to get there.  We were not even going to bring our hospital bags, but Sierra suggested we should.  I was really afraid that we would go and I would only be 4 cm.  I was not expecting anything other than just to see how many centimeters I was for my own curiosity before they closed the office.  I was planning on coming back home.  Joey was getting the car warmed up and putting extra pillows in the back seat for me.  I was throwing up into our recycling bin in the middle of the living room.  Glamourous.
  As we were getting ready to leave, my mom showed up.  I had not shed a single tear this entire time, and as soon as my mom walked in the door I just collapsed on her and started bawling my eyes out.  Just something about your mama I guess.

We all got in the car and Sierra sat in the back with me.  I should mention what I was wearing.  For someone who wanted to give birth in full make up with lipstick... I did not care one bit at this point.  I probably should have.  I was wearing a black nightgown, UGG boots, and a long purple coat.  It was below freezing and snow and ice covered the ground.  I'm sure I looked like a maniac.  I had a contraction in the front yard before we could even get in the car.  Our midwife's office is really close and thank goodness I only had one contraction in the car.  I had another in the parking lot as soon as we got there.
We went in the office and I had both Joey and Sierra come back with me.  Sierra asked if I wanted her to leave when they did the exam, but I said she is about to see me give birth, no I do not care for her to be in the room.

Melissa, my midwife came in and checked me.  I was so anxious to hear how many centimeters and she starts off saying, "the baby is really high."  My heart sank.  Then she said, "but you are 8 cm."  You guys! 8 freaking centimeters.  Again I burst into tears.  I was so happy.  I said, "is it OK if I go on to the hospital?"  She told me that I had to go straight to the hospital and she would meet me over there.  Then she told me that the baby was so high because I needed to relax.  Um...yes.  I've been told that before.  I knew exactly what she meant though.  Every time I had a contraction I was fighting against it and tensing up.  She said I had to let the baby drop down into the birth canal and relax my body and go with the contraction.  Then she said that when she got to the hospital she was going to break my water and I should have a baby in about an HOUR AND A HALF.

The three of us headed to the hospital, which was just across the street and probably a 2 minute drive.
Joey dropped Sierra and I off at the entrance and I had another contraction right there in the front doorway.
At this point I was still contemplating the epidural.  Sierra and I were in the elevator and this was my thought.  I have prayed and prayed for this child and this birth.  I was 8 centimeters, so close, and I got there all on my own.  I didn't want to give up now, because of fear of pain.  I didn't want to spend months praying for something, then give up on God getting me through it in the last minute.

Sierra and I went up to the registration desk and this absolutely hateful woman finally came to help us.  I was having contractions and moaning and writhing around in pain in front of all of these people in the waiting room, including another pregnant woman who Joey said he was pretty sure I traumatized.  The nurse working the desk was in absolutely no hurry and seemingly unsympathetic.  She actually asked me to sign papers in the middle of a contraction.

Side note: It all happened so fast, and I was still having contractions every few minutes, including the drive to the hospital.  None of thought to call our moms or Caity who was still at our house.  My mom and Caity were together and they were so "mad" we had left them in the dark.  My mom decided to take it upon herself to call the hospital and see if I had been admitted.  Whoever answered told her that yes I had been admitted and my room number.  Then Caitlyn decided to google the hospital's floor plan, to see if I was on the delivery floor or recovery floor.  Hahaha!

So after getting checked in, the hateful nurse took me back to my room.  She gave me a gown, a cup to pee in and said they would be putting my IV in.  The contractions were coming so quickly and were so painful I could not concentrate.  Thank goodness that awful woman left and a different nurse came in.  I loved her.  She told me I was welcome to wear my own clothes, and asked if I wanted an IV.  I told her because I didn't plan on having an epidural I really did not want one.  She said she could just write down "patient refusal" and that was fine.  She didn't mention me peeing in the cup, so I just never did it.  I had a whole pack of papers they wanted me to sign.  I'm sure my signature looked ridiculous.  Isn't it dumb to make someone sign their consent to such life altering things when they are in labor?

Melissa, my midwife got there.  I was terrified of her breaking my water, even though she promised it wouldn't hurt.  I was starting to second guess the epidural again.  It was easy to say I didn't want it, but every time a contraction hit it was the most painful thing ever and I just wanted it to end.  I talked to Melissa about the epidural and how scared I was of the pain.  What she told me was that it wasn't going to hurt any more than it already did.  I was at 8 cm and the hardest part was behind me.  So...I was going for it.

Melissa broke my water, and she was right, it didn't hurt at all.  Joey and I both thought she would break my water, and it would be a few hours and she would come back to check on us, and it would be awhile before I actually started pushing.  We were wrong.  The very next contraction after my water broke, Melissa told me I would be pushing.  I was FREAKING out.  I thought she was joking.  I asked if she was joking.  She tried to explain to me how she wanted me to push.  I would take a deep breath, push for 10 seconds, exhale, take another breath and do it over again two more times.  I could not wrap my mind around that for some reason.  I was so confused and when the contraction hit I was a HOT MESS.  I'm pretty sure I almost kicked Melissa in the head.  In my head I knew, ok this is not going to work, but I could not control my body.  I was panicking.  I had been having every contraction with Sierra putting counter pressure on my back, and now I was laying on my back making the pain even worse, and I was supposed to concentrate on not only pushing, but how to push and breathe.  It took me quite a few contractions to figure out how I needed to breathe and push.  I had Joey right next to my head, Sierra next to him, two nurses and Melissa.  All 5 of them were talking to me and encouraging me and counting for me to push and it was so distracting.  Mainly the counting.

Melissa wanted me to try a few different positions to push, so I got up on my hands and knees and leaned against the back of the bed, facing the wall.  Joey later said its a good thing I never get embarrassed, since I was literally completely naked in a room full of people with a spotlight on my butt.

OK, at this point it is Thursday evening.  I haven't eaten since dinner on Wednesday.  I haven't slept in almost 60 hours.  I was the most exhausted I have ever been in my life.  In between contractions I was literally falling asleep.  Joey was starting to worry about me.  He kept saying, "Jess, you seem really lethargic, are you ok?" I wasn't talking at all, I wasn't responding to anyone.  Joey tried to be encouraging and telling me I could take a nap after it was all over.  The only time I yelled at him the whole time was when he said that, and I reminded him I was going to have a newborn, I would never sleep again ;)

Pushing on my hands and knees wasn't working so I went back to pushing on my back.  So, like I said I had been having back labor the entire time.  What we didn't know at the time was that in the process of pushing, I had broken my tailbone.  Melissa was telling me I had to put my hands behind my legs and pull myself up to push.  I kept yelling that I was not that flexible!  Well, I didn't mean "flexible" I just wasn't thinking straight.  I meant my tailbone hurts so bad, that pulling myself up was almost impossible because it put all of the pressure directly on my tailbone.  I didn't remember this, but Joey said I only said one cuss word the whole time and it was during a contraction with them urging me to pull up on my legs and I yelled, "my f***ing back hurts!!"  Oops.

I was starting to worry I wasn't going to be able to do it.  I was so tired.  Melissa had Joey feeding me ice chips and apple juice between contractions to try and give me some energy.  In my head I was thinking, "ok I just need to rally and get this done."  But I literally was so tired I could not think.  I actually slapped myself a few times trying to wake myself up.  The nurses were probably thinking I should really be on the crazy person floor when I did that.  I thought I would have a burst of adrenaline or something, but I didn't.   My other problem was that I was still so tense.  I couldn't relax my legs.

Next Melissa suggested getting a long bed sheet and letting me use that to pull myself up, with one of the nurses pulling the other end.  I had my legs in stirrups to try and get me to relax and give Major room to come out.  It finally started getting real.  I was trying to talk myself into an adrenaline rush.  I had a really good push and Melissa told me if I could keep that up, Major would be here in 3 more pushes.  That was what really helped me.  It wasn't three more, but in about 5 more pushes, Major was finally here!

Let me say this.  Yes, this was the most intense pain ever.  But Melissa was right, it didn't really hurt any worse than it already had.  It didn't hurt between contractions, just when I was having one.  When Major's head was crowning, that was the worst pain, but it was over very quickly.

The best moment of my entire life, was this moment.  I don't want to sound all cheesy, but if I'm being honest, it really was the best single moment of my life.  All of my prayers were culminating in this perfect ending.  I felt like I was experiencing a miracle, and it was the closest I could get to heaven on this earth.  Feeling Major come out, the pain was immediately gone.  Really weird how that works.  Like, no pain at all.  Having him put immediately on my chest was the best feeling in the world.  Knowing I had succeeded in a VBAC and that I did it without any pain medications, I was so proud of myself!  I told my husband I would really like to take out a billboard to brag on myself ;)

We had arrived at the hospital around 5:30 and I had him at 7:53pm on January 23, which was his due date.  I pushed for a little over an hour.  If I only count once the contractions got really bad, I was in labor for about 48 hours.
I also want to point out that you really can't go "by the book."  If I had continued waiting for my contractions to get 3-4 minutes apart, I would have ended up having Major at home!  Even by the time we got to the hospital they were still irregular and not consistently 3-4 minutes every time.

He stayed on my chest for a full hour and was the most perfect little thing.  After an hour the nurse took him to weigh him.  He was 6 lbs 11.5 ounces.  Exactly 2 ounces bigger than Shepherd.  He was 20 inches long.

Joey called everyone and told them Major was here.  Which was news to everyone considering no one knew we had even gone to the happened so fast!  That wasn't our plan, but I'm glad it happened that way.  I was so freaking tired there was no way I could have handled a ton of visitors.  My mom came to the hospital to see us and I was so happy to see her.  She stayed with me and helped me get to the recovery room while Joey went with Major to the nursery for his bath.  After Joey got back to me, Mom left to trade out with Caity and Rhonda (my mother in law).  Rhonda went to McDonalds for us and brought me fries, a milkshake and a big fat Coke :)

I'll end here and post a little more about the hospital stay and recovery later on.
Thank you to everyone who has sent me encouraging words, or lifted us up in prayer.  I've been consumed with this for so long, and I am so happy to have my baby here safe and sound :)  He is perfect!


  1. I LOVE reading birth stories and I've never read one I loved more than this. There is so much beauty and strength and love in your experience. Congratulations on the baby, the VBAC, and the natural birth--YOU ROCK!

    1. Wow what a compliment! Thank you so much!

  2. Loved this! Made me cry a little bit! Way to go on the unmedicated birth, you are so strong! I'm hoping to do that the next time around and your story will be some inspiration for me! Thanks so much for sharing! Enjoy that sweet, sweet boy!

    1. Oh I know you can do it!! I know you will be so prepared ;) I love hearing about all your little projects!

  3. WOW, girl… you are a total rock star… I read every word. How inspiring and wonderful! Thank you for sharing your both painful and miraculous story!

    1. Haha I didn't know if anyone would really read it through to the end since I wrote a novel! Thanks for reading!! :)

  4. Jessica, it was an honor to be your doula! I have been reading while in a waiting room and have literally cried and laughed aloud! Major's birth was such a wonderous experience for everyone involved...

  5. What a beautiful story Jessica! This made me laugh and cry (a lot). You are tough and inspiring. I have been seriously considering natural birth this time and reading your experience is such an encouragement! Major is precious! Congrats to you and Joey!! :)

    1. Thanks Jana :) You should definitely go for a natural birth. I'd love to hear the difference from your experiences!

  6. Such an amazing birth story! He is so cute. Your story is so inspiring and gives me hope for a natural birth as we prepare for our second baby who will be here in September. Congratulations! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Thank you for posting! It brought back a lot of memories for me...I had a very similar experience when my second child was born. It is amazing what our bodies (and minds!) can do when we are put to the test. The pictures are beautiful and Major is just perfect. Congratulations! I'm happy for you and your family!

    1. Thank you for commenting! It is amazing how our bodies just know what to do. God planned it all so intricately well :)