My Precipitous, Unmedicated Vaginal Birth After C-Section

With all its pain, courage, and joy!

Judah Tolkein 2.19.2020 | Photo by Noleen Thurman

Hey, can I share my epic birth story with you?

After receiving twin baby girls via Cesarean Section three years ago, I wanted to try for an unmedicated vaginal birth.

But there was a problem.

Baby Judah was sunny side up — a not-so-ideal position.

I called my doula, Noleen, crying because I knew this could make for an exceptionally long and painful labor.

Noleen is a close friend. Several years ago, she invited me to witness the peaceful water birth of her fourth child. It was breathtaking.

When I became pregnant for the first time, she supported me through a challenging twin pregnancy and was there holding my hand in the operating room as the doctor lifted each of my daughters like Simba over the surgical curtain.

And here she was again, helping me prepare for this VBAC.

I would never, I repeat, never want to go through the birthing process without my doula.

As my due date approached, I prepared with prayer and positive birth affirmations. I also tried a few natural induction methods suggested by my midwife, including drinking a shake made with castor oil and raw eggs. Blech!

I kept repeating this mantra I had found on the internet:
“Release, Soften, Open, Receive!”
Ommm!

I meditated on phrases from the Hypnobabies philosophy:

“My body knows how to give birth to my baby. I release all my fears. I’m flexible and open to whatever turns my birthing process brings.”

I’m prone to fear, so my prayers were full of requests for strength and courage. I asked God to help me feel safe.

Our twin girls, Jubilee and Keely, put their hands on my baby bump and joyfully shouted, “Judah, come out! Amen!”

The day after Judah’s due date, I wondered if the tightening in my belly might be a sign of early labor. I got into the bathtub, turned on Netflix, and rested comfortably in the warm water for two hours.

The moment I stepped out of the tub, a strong contraction brought me to my knees. It seemed too soon, but my intuition told me to get to the hospital.

My friend Shannon rushed over to take care of our girls.

Justan drove me to the hospital — the most intense 15-minute car ride of my life!

Another good friend, Maureen, followed close behind.

My doula, Noleen, met us at the hospital. By that time, I could barely walk. I wrapped my arms around Noleen’s shoulders as she led me to triage. I had to stop a few times so I could breathe through the pain.

I told triage nurses I had urges to push. They scrambled to find me an available room.

The midwife checked my cervix, which we assumed would be 5 or 6 centimeters, max.

Nope! 10 centimeters!
Fully dilated and ready to start pushing!

Wait, what?!

I was amazed.

And scared.

Right then and there, I decided I wanted an epidural. The midwife said it was far too late for that. Judah was coming. Noleen held my hands firmly, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Amber, you’re strong. You can do this.”

What else could I do but choose to rise to the occasion?

There I was, surrounded by my midwife and two friendly nurses, my wonderful husband, my doula Noleen, and my friend Maureen — an older, wiser mama with a comforting presence.

The midwife began coaching me to push into each contraction. When a wave of pressure crashed through me, I would lean in with everything I had.

Between contraction, I looked up at the supportive team encircling me. Their kind expressions, encouraging words, and smiles helped me find courage. Each of them was 100% with me at that moment.

As I pushed, a nurse counted to ten. I took a deep breath and then tried again. For 30 minutes, I pushed, and they cheered. They said, “He’s getting closer. You’re doing it! We see his hair, lots of dark hair!”

After exerting every ounce of strength I could find, I started to feel profoundly tired and wondered how I could go on.

A nurse placed an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. Noleen held my hand and reminded me to keep breathing. Justan spoke words of love. Maureen placed her hand on my forehead.

I can hardly express what it was like to feel a crowning baby that needed me to push him from my body. There was no exit door out of the most overwhelming experience of my life. This moment required me to stay present and keep pressing wholeheartedly through it.

As I gazed into the eyes of my husband and friends, I asked them to pray for more strength.

While I pushed through each immense wave of pressure, I would silently say, “God, I want to love you with all my heart and all my strength!”

I began to feel that “ring of fire” I had heard about.
A flame in my heart kept me pressing through it.

And then…

all at once, in a final surge of power —

Baby Judah burst into this world!

His high-pitch squeal filled the room with electric joy.

As a nurse placed him on my chest, relief flooded through me. My whole body began to shiver. The nurses checked on the baby, while the midwife helped stop my bleeding. Noleen and Maureen comforted me. I felt vulnerable and wanted to be covered.

We handed the baby to my husband, and he held Judah skin-to-skin.

Then, I noticed concern in the midwife’s eyes.

“Am I okay?” I kept asking, seeking reassurance.

She called in a surgeon, who told me I had severe internal tears, straight up through my cervix, that needed to be repaired right away.

A combination of relief and oxytocin kept me smiling as nurses wheeled me to the operating room. They told me I’d go to sleep for a while, and I said I wanted to wake up with a warm blanket. They assured me I would.

I awoke to Judah’s tiny, gorgeous face. Tears streamed down my face as I lifted my arms to praise God for this holy moment.

Judah’s entrance into this world was, at once, painful and glorious.

The healing process has been a struggle. The surgeon said my tears were among the worst he’d seen, likely due to how quickly labor progressed.

The next few months were some of the hardest of my life. I was sleep-deprived, healing from birth tears, emotionally up and down, figuring out how to breastfeed Judah while also caring for twin toddlers — in the middle of a global pandemic.

But here we are, one year later, and I’m still smiling.

Today is Judah’s birthday!

His name, quite fittingly, means “praise.”

We refer to Judah as the happiest baby in the world. He’s a snuggly, smiley little jokester, and we adore him.

Now, as I’m reflecting, I’m struck by some of the details of his birth.

Precipitous or rapid labor is very rare, only happening in about 3% of births. It often leads to babies being born suddenly at home or en route to the hospital, which can be traumatic.

I’m so grateful that I made it to the hospital in the knick of time. I received excellent medical care and was surrounded by close, supportive friends.

Birth is both natural and profoundly supernatural.

Every birth story is sacred and deeply personal.

I’ve shared mine and Judah’s as an offering of love.

Happy Birthday, baby Judah!

author’s family | Photo by Carrie Fay Photography

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Amber Hunter

Amber Hunter

Sonoran Desert Dweller | Storyteller here at Medium | Songwriter at youtube.com/amberhuntermusic | Twin Mama | Spiritual Director | I write to grow.