It was a logical question to ask, “Are you sure you want to try this again after what happened last time?”
Three years ago, I watched my wife go through a multi-day struggle to bring our daughter into the world. Our attempts at a water birth at home turned into a nightmare at the hospital ending in an emergency c-section. So, we understood the concerns from our loved ones.
The general population assumes “once a c-section, always a c-section.” That is a myth; when we found out that we were expecting again last fall, we had to determine whether or not we wanted to prove it. In our family, being healthy is an expectation. I own and operate a holistic health facility and my wife is a Wellness Advocate for doTERRA Essential Oils. We do our best to practice as we teach and we are highly encouraging of women who want a natural birth, which is safer and better for both mom and child without the interruptions of routine medical procedures and unnecessary interventions. Truth be told, it had always been my wife’s dream to give birth in the water; plus, we just did not want to assume the risk of another c-section. The concern with Vaginal Birth After C-Section (VBAC) is uterine rupture, but that 1 in 100 or less chance is a far cry from the potential (and much more common) complications of a second major surgery for my wife in three years.
Atop our to-do list, then, was finding the right support system. We knew we wanted a team of midwives. Based on the mere 8% of births attended by midwives in the United States today, that might seem a strange choice given our previous experience. Yet, consider that 70-80% of the births in every other developed country are attended by midwives because they are the most qualified people to help. In a recent landmark study, it was found that women under the care of midwives during their pregnancies had c-sections just 5% of the time, as compared to the rates as high as 48% in some areas of the country for women whose primary pre-and-post-natal care is guided by an obstetrician. In America, we have the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world and use midwives less than 10% of the time. Statistically, we should be following someone else’s lead given that the countries doing things differently from us are getting better outcomes.
My wife did her homework and found the route that she wanted to take, leading us 50 miles down the road to Natural Beginnings Birth and Wellness Center in Statesville. Our first visit was going to be the determining factor for me. I am not one to ask a lot of questions in those situations; I am an observer and a reader of body language. I want to know that the people trying to help know their stuff and genuinely care.
The team at Natural Beginnings put my mind at ease quickly. On day one in September, we met with one of their three midwives and their lead nursing assistant. We interacted with each member of their ten person staff by the end of May. Everyone is friendly and professional. In my own office, we try to create an atmosphere atypical of the usual doctor’s office, so I found it very comforting that the environment that they’ve created is more relaxed too (not so stiff and uninviting). The delivery rooms look like our guest bedroom suite at home; it’s a great facility. I walked away confident that they would see us through to our desired conclusion.
When things get difficult, though, that is when you want the people that you have entrusted with your health to shine; not to tell you what you want to hear, but to tell you what you need to hear; not to give into the demands of frustration, but to encourage and guide you toward the end result.
Our son’s due date came and went. Contractions started…and then stopped. This went on for several days and, while certainly common, it felt all too familiar to us. The next ten days were a roller coaster ride. We did our best not to allow the memories from three years prior to flood our consciousness, but it was one of the most difficult weeks-and-a-half of our lives. The further removed we were from the due date, the harder it became not to wonder “is a normal birth just not in the cards?”
It was during those eleven days of stop-start contractions and growing anxiety based on past experience that the midwives at Natural Beginnings shined brightest. One reminded my wife that “your body does work” and to keep trusting it. Another calmly but deliberately told us, “Your baby is not in the right position” and gave us the exact things necessary to move him; support and instruction we wished we had been given with our daughter.
God Bless the midwife on call when our son finally decided to start making his way out. Half a dozen phone calls were made, us practically begging her to acknowledge that it was time to head to Statesville and have this baby, but she kept calm and eventually had to remind us that if we came in and it was not time to deliver, then only a certain amount of time could pass before they would be legally required to send us to the nearby hospital. She knew our history and that it was the last thing we wanted. Hearing her say that put things in perspective for us and helped us to remain patient. We went with the flow, got an amazing boost from an awesome friend, and reached “go time” in the wee hours of the morning.
Fortunately, we had powerful advocates on our side who helped quiet the doubting voices in our heads and who, ultimately, guided us to an incredible birthing experience. We arrived at the Birth Center at 1:30AM. Our son was born two hours later in the water. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. We were at home resting by 8AM. This was truly the experience we had wanted with our daughter and we feel so fortunate to have accomplished it with our son.
To Tracie, Marcia, and Nicole, we are eternally grateful. If it was not for your guidance and support, our dream would not have come true. To the rest of your team, we thank you for the kind words and the smiles. To everyone reading this article, do not be afraid to go the natural route (or to encourage it); do your research and, if you decide that it is right for you, then my wife and I strongly recommend Natural Beginnings Birth and Wellness Center.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Chad and Sarah McIntyre
The primary sources cited in this article are The Midwives Alliance of North America, the 2008 documentary The Business of Being Born, and the website of the Mayo Clinic.