What I Learned From My Planned HBAC Turned Empowered Hospital VBAC:
I teach yoga to mothers. I offer an opportunity for them to write their birth story and send it into me to share in prenatal yoga class. I believe in this tradition and absolutely adore it. My mentor teacher, Camille Mulchi of MotherWise Yoga, did this and I always looked forward to that time in her prenatal yoga class. I believe we should honor women’s birth stories. I also feel we don’t share them openly and honestly enough in our culture. When it came to writing my own birth story this time around, it proved to be a huge challenge. How could I put to words what my baby and I just experienced? This birth was so intertwined with my first birth, my miscarriage and so many self-discoveries. It was long and it had many unexpected opportunities. It was a planned HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) turned hospital VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) with 60 hours of labor, 4.5 hours of pushing, a few necessary interventions and my baby was born at 42 weeks + 4 days… these are just some facts. So hang on with me here, as I share some of the thoughts and emotions, I promise I will try to bring it full circle.
What I have learned from my babies….
My babies love my womb (it must be cozy in there) and I love being pregnant!
In the end, I know what is best for me and my babies. I have a truth inside of me.
My body and my babies take time and we need to not feel cornered or pressured.
I can make plans and should make plans. I should be educated, informed and prepared for the biggest rite of passage in my life, birth. It would be irresponsible not to be prepared. However, even the best laid plans and preparations do not mean things will go as planned. If things do not go as planned, I will survive and if I am open to it, I can even learn some very deep lessons of acceptance in the process. These things I have learned from the births of my babies and they were surely put to practice with the birth of my youngest child, Remi.
Possibly the biggest “life lesson” that has come to me from my babies is that birth is intimately connected with death and re-birth… I have learned this time and time again with each of my pregnancies, labors and births. I wrote about this idea with my miscarriage and how Nataraja inspired my realization and understanding of this truth. The thing is, this isn’t necessarily bad or good, it simply allows for an opportunity to re-emerge as someone new, possibly more enlightened and empowered – changed. This cycle intrigues me deeply and can be applied on a daily basis in life. In fact, life is regenerated on a minute by minute basis. How beautiful is that? How wonderful is it to have the chance to change at any moment as needed? It’s certainly useful in motherhood! An opportunity to shift the energy, shift the heart, shift the trajectory. During my 65 hour labor and birth with Remi ‘energy’ shifted many times. My energy was reborn, my commitment to a VBAC was reborn and my trust was reborn. The honest truth about it is that each of these things was reborn because each of them had little moments of death. When you have that many hours of working hard towards bringing forth life, ‘death’ is inescapable.
What it came down to for me in that final hour (or hours I should say) is this quote from a Josh Ritter song “You gotta rock yourself a little bit harder. Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire”. Although I surprisingly didn’t listen to much music during labor this time (music was very important to me during labor with Sola), this song played in my head when I finally decided it was ‘go-time’. After a much needed compassionate use of an epidural in the middle of the night on Sunday (the 3rd night of labor), I awoke after a two hour nap and was ready to ‘bang this out’.
I had to work hard for my VBAC. The hard work of VBAC birth preparations (and let me tell you it is hard work – a VBAC does not happen by chance in many parts of our great country) well, those preparations pale in comparison to the hard work of my labor and birth with Remi. It was so very difficult. More than I ever imagined. I knew it was going to be work, but the depths of where I had to draw from to continue…
I am still not exactly sure where the strength came from, both physically and emotionally.
This birth was not the soft, peaceful, quiet birth I had imagined. There were moments that were beautiful and idyllic. At home when it still looked as though this would be an HBAC these moments occurred often.
…when I was laboring on the birth ball at the midnight hour with my 4 year old in front of the wood stove
… when my loving doula took me to our upstairs bathroom for a change of scenery, she lit candles and I stood in the shower with the water piping hot running down my back
… when I first stepped into the birth pool with candles, birth art and my loving team surrounding me in the dining room – my body seemed to instantly melt and soften
… and finally when my husband and I got in the shower together in the hospital, monitoring cords and all – as he held me and I cried, then we cried together and we made a new commitment to this birth
Those were beautiful moments.
Yes, there were many beautiful and peaceful moments, but overall this birth was raw. It was tough, it was primal, it was long, in the end it was not ‘pretty’(my eyes were nearly swollen shut after catching no sleep for 3 nights and days, my legs were swollen, there was poop, a crazy amount of cords were strapped to me, there was a little meconium and a lot of blood), but it was beautiful in its own way.
But what was truly beautiful, is that …
It. Was. Empowering.
It was my birth, that I owned, every step of the way. This birth cleared the path. It sent me to the depths of my soul, uncovering wounds I thought I had completely healed and forcing me to look straight into the eyes of challenge with myself.
In the midst of this birth, I found this saying to be deeply true: “Being pregnant and giving birth are like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge. They can greet you on the other side. But you must walk the bridge alone” ~ African Proverb
I had a great team that I very carefully selected. They loved and supported me, they held me, they cried with me. But in the end, I walked the bridge alone.
The final and ultimate “life lesson” that the birth of baby Remi brought to me and sealed in my heart is finding my own truth. During this labor and birth what remained a constant for me was meditating on Sat Nam – I am Truth, Truth is My Identity. My truth is always there, but quieting the mind and the outside noise enough to hear my own truth, this is the challenge. With three pregnancies: one failed induction resulting in a traumatic cesarean birth, one miscarriage patiently trusting and waiting it out for five months and one planned HBAC turned hospital VBAC, I have learned to find my inner truth. I have learned how to quiet my mind and turn off the outside noise so I can hear my inner truth. There were so many twists, turns and stop and go points requiring difficult decisions during this labyrinth of a birth – I had to turn inward. And when I turned inward I searched for that inner truth of mine that only I could find. I listened and waited for Sat Nam in my soul. I imagine this is why my midwife, doula and husband had a difficult time reading me and why I was having a difficult time being verbal. Because I was searching for the truth that only I could find.
I found my truth during the two weeks of prodromal labor that I experienced. I found my truth when I went past my estimated due date nearing 43 weeks. I found my truth when my labor slowed down as the sun rose Saturday morning after it had finally kicked in Friday evening. I found my truth when it slowed down again as my doula and then my midwife and nurse arrived Saturday night. I found my truth as the sun rose Sunday morning and I thought to myself “another freakin’ sunrise???”. I found my truth mid-day Sunday when faced with the possibility of transferring to the hospital. I found my truth Sunday night in the hospital when my husband and I shared a shower and shared our souls and shared our fierceness to accomplish this together. I found my truth when my awesome doula lovingly, but firmly reminded me that this birth was NOT the birth of my first daughter, it was a new birth. I found my truth when I realized that this labor needed augmented with Pitocin. I found my truth when I decided it WAS time for an epidural so I could sleep and see this birth to the end, a vaginal end. I found my truth when I awoke from a MUCH NEEDED two hour nap and felt re-energized and ready to complete this. I found my truth when I realized this labor needed more augmentation and that it was time to break my bulging bag of water keeping my baby’s head off of my cervix. I found my truth when the area by my cesarean scar became excruciatingly painful during contractions. I found my truth when it was FINALLY time to push my baby out – to push my baby out of my vagina! I found my truth as the hours clocked by 1- 2 – 3 – 4 hours of pushing with my husband, doula and midwife supporting me and cheering me on the whole time. I found my truth after 4.5 hours of pushing and my sweet baby was finally on my chest.
And, ahhhh, as I looked into her eyes and then into the eyes of my husband who was crying and into the eyes of my doula, my midwife and my doctor – the team who supported me – I once again found my truth, my Sat Nam.
Then I laughed with joy! A laugh that I can still hear in my heart and that I wish to always be able to hear. That is a noise I hope never quiets, because that laughter is now the sound of Sat Nam to me.
Remi’s birth was not how I envisioned it. But, it left me knowing in the depths of my soul that my body is not broken and I now have a deeper understanding of just how powerful and miraculous the female body is. This birth gave me an opportunity to “walk my talk” and truly live my yoga, the yoga that I teach to mothers each week. I am at peace and I am full of gratitude. I am truth, truth is my identity. Thank you baby Remi for teaching me that.
Sarah Oakley – Certified Prenatal Yoga Teacher – Owner & Director of MamaBirth YOGA
With the birth of my daughter, I was born into a new woman. This profound journey inspired my path into sharing yoga for the childbearing year with other women. I deeply understand the incredible, sometimes challenging, yet joyful transition through childbirth and into motherhood. Therefore, I strive to provide a safe, nurturing and empowering space for women to connect with their body and baby in preparation for this sacred rite of passage.
Above all, I am a mama to my sweet, strong and spirited young girls and partner to my loving husband. I have found my calling in teaching perinatal yoga and teach from my heart with respect for the intuitive wisdom within every mama and baby. I find inspiration and joy in my teachers, the mamas I have the honor to share space with and my daughter – the best teacher of the yogini way of life.
I am a Certified Prenatal Yoga Teacher through The Seattle Holistic Center where I studied under the guidance of Colette Crawford. I am sincerely grateful to have trained, apprenticed and taught with Camille Mulchi of MotherWise Yoga in Portland OR. Additionally, I draw upon the experience of birthing my daughter, motherhood and yoga practice of more than 12 years in Anusara, Hatha, Vinyasa and Kundalini Yoga. In addition to teaching perinatal yoga, I am a founding member of BirthNetwork CNY and Co-Leader of ICAN of Syracuse. Most recently, in keeping with the spirit of adventure, I have trained with one of my teachers, Kim Fischer of Lotus Life Yoga Center, to become an Aerial Yoga Teacher.
In 2011, shortly after moving to Syracuse NY from Portland OR with my family, I founded MamaBirth YOGA. In the past few years, supporting this community of mothers has grown into and far exceeded my vision. I am grateful daily for the opportunity to share yoga with mothers and to be living my dharma. My greatest hope for my work is that I am able to offer women yogic tools for embracing a conscious and empowering pregnancy, birth and motherhood.