My Successful Homebirth after Five Cesareans
by Julie Ewbank
© 2013 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 107, Autumn 2013.]
When I found out I was pregnant with our seventh child, I had to find a new doctor. The doctor who delivered our sixth baby by cesarean had suffered a stroke and could no longer practice medicine. A friend recommended a family doctor whose office was an hour away.
At my first appointment, this doctor made it known that he was surprised I’d had five previous cesareans. He informed me that this pregnancy should be my last because of the high risk of having repeated surgeries. Needless to say we didn’t start out on a good foot. After that visit I dreaded driving an hour to the appointment just to be seen for 5 or 10 minutes and then have to drive another hour home.
Around this same time, my husband, Dax, and I had become friends with a family who had had several of their children at home. During one of our visits we were talking about homebirths and I mentioned that I would love to have a baby at home but that it wasn’t possible for me anymore because I had to have c-sections. My friend, Wendy, told me about a magazine called Above Rubies that publishes all kinds of VBAC testimonies. She encouraged me to read the stories and not give up on having a homebirth. A few weeks later I decided to check out this magazine. I subscribed to their e-mail feed and in one of the e-mails they asked if anyone wanted back issues of their magazines. I replied asking for any issues they had that talked about VBACs. A few weeks later I received the magazines and started reading all of the wonderful stories. After reading and praying, I had made my decision to have a homebirth after five cesareans!
Unfortunately, my husband had heard homebirth horror stories, so when I approached him with my decision, he didn’t want to risk my life and was against the idea. After reminding him that he risked his life in a similar way when he took mission trips to Africa, but was able to grow closer to God by going, he understood that this journey was one we should take. It further eased his mind as he researched the subject of VBACs and discovered that the risk of uterine rupture, even after cesarean, was actually lower than the risks posed by having any kind of major surgery in a hospital. The hope of being able to do something that would require us to trust in God was motivating, and the research put our minds at ease that we were not putting God to the test.
I started my search for a midwife. I researched several midwives in my area and contacted them. Bethany Wagler with Precious Beginnings Midwifery Care was the only midwife to e-mail me back. I had found her on Facebook and she lived about three hours away.
I was six and a half months pregnant when Dax and I drove to Kansas for our first appointment with Bethany. We actually enjoyed the three-hour drive. It gave us time to talk and later it gave us time to read birthing books. Dax came with me to each appointment. It was so much different going to Bethany than to an Ob/Gyn. On one specific appointment we had our six kids with us and we were there for an hour trying to turn the baby and waiting for another midwife to come so she could feel and determine if the baby was head down or if we should go get an ultrasound to find out. We all had so much fun that day!
We prepared for the homebirth by reading, using essential oils and praying. Since it was too late to take a childbirth class, we read a book about The Bradley Method of Childbirth and Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern. Dax would rub frankincense, myrrh and helichrysum on my cesarean scar and pray over me and the baby every night. There are many health benefits of using essential oils, but with these oils we were focusing on tending to scar tissue left from previous cesareans. I drank lots of water and took lots of vitamins. I also took lemon essential oil in a capsule every night for heartburn, but noticed that this was the first pregnancy that my feet didn’t swell and I didn’t suffer from restless legs at night. I drank red raspberry leaf tea to strengthen my uterus. I was so happy when I found it in capsule form because I did not like the taste of the tea. This was by far my best pregnancy. I felt great throughout it.
January 12, 2012, was my due date and my oldest child’s 14th birthday. My water broke around 1 am the next morning. I didn’t sleep well and my contractions were 10 minutes apart. Around 5 am Dax brought me my phone to text Bethany. I didn’t want to bother her too early but Dax assured me it wasn’t too early. Dax started filling the birthing pool, talked to Bethany and her assistant while I tried to rest and got our kids up and over to his parent’s house.
When I woke up, Dax told me that Bethany and her assistant Laurel had left Kansas at 6:45 am. By 9:00 am my contractions had stopped, so Dax took me to breakfast at a diner. Bethany and Laurel met us there—I felt bad that they had traveled such a long way and now my contractions had stalled.
Friday was spent resting, walking several different times, using a breast pump to try to encourage contractions, monitoring my vitals, monitoring the baby’s heartbeat and drinking lots of water. I didn’t get much sleep Friday night, but Bethany kept a good eye on us. I’m sure it was a long night for everyone.
By Saturday morning I was discouraged and tired. Dax and I went walking right before noon and when we got back to the house I drank a Sprite with castor oil in it. I used the breast pump again and not long after that my contractions became regular.
Dax was right there with me trying to help me focus, breathe and rest between contractions. We were praying constantly. By 7:30 pm my contractions were very intense and about three minutes apart. My scar had started hurting, but when Bethany checked it, everything looked fine. At 10:20 pm I got into the birthing pool. I had maybe three contractions leaning over the side of the pool and then I started to feel the urge to push. I was so confused because I couldn’t believe it was already time!
At 11:16 pm, on January 14, less than one hour after getting in the birthing pool, our beautiful 9 lb 8 oz baby girl came into the world. As she did I exclaimed, “I did it!”
I encourage everyone to question the rise in cesarean births in the US. Do all you can to support midwifery and homebirths!
Julie Ewbank is a homeschooling mother of seven. Her youngest, Cora, was born at home after five previous cesareans. Julie, her husband and their children live in Forest Park, Oklahoma.
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