On Sunday July 22nd at 7:41 PM Lincoln Robert Jenkins was born.
The addition of Link to our family has been an amazing experience but I won’t bore you with a post about our healthy baby boy and how much he has changed our lives.
Instead I would like to share a story inspired by my wife. Kelly approached this second pregnancy and labor with a clear goal and focus. I know I learned a lot about what it takes to achieve something really challenging and I hope you will learn something too.
The First Pregnancy
Before I jump into the lessons learned let me share a little of the back story.
My daughter Lily was born almost three years ago and the labor did not go how Kelly had planned. As Kelly’s pregnancy progressed and her due date came and passed her doctor started getting worried that it was taking too long for our daughter to come out. Eventually he decided to induce the labor and Kelly checked into the hospital.
She was given some medicine to initiate the first stage of labor and effectively get the ball rolling. In her case it did much more than that and within a couple hours she was actively laboring. This caught everyone by surprise: the nurses, the doctor and even us. There had been talk of the labor starting within 24 hours and here we were hours later and the baby was coming! There was panic in the air as people scrambled around trying to get everything prepared. Her doctor didn’t show up till she was almost fully dilated and ready to push.
As the labor continued to progress and Kelly began to push there was a scare. The babies’ heart rate dropped dramatically. “It could be a sign the baby is in distress,” the doctor said. My heart jumped into my throat. The doctor had Kelly move into a couple different positions trying to get the heart rate to return to a normal level. Eventually it did but the doctor decided it was too risky to continue with the labor. He made the decision to rush Kelly off to the operating room where he performed a caesarean section.
Our tiny baby girl was whisked away immediately while the doctor closed the incision. Kelly didn’t get to hold her until a couple hours later and even then then she could barely sit up because of the surgery. Over the next month and a half Kelly dealt with an infected wound and the recovery took longer than normal. Needless to say she didn’t want to go through that again.
Set an Achievable Goal
That is why I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she wanted to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) for her second pregnancy. She mentioned this shortly after Lily was born and before we even started talking about having another baby. I remember her mentioning that it was recommended to wait at least two years to give the uterus long enough to fully heal. She said we needed to wait at least that long until we tried again.
“That won’t be a problem,” I remember thinking. At the time the last thing I had on my mind was a second baby. But she was thinking about it already and had set a clear goal for how she wanted the next labor to go.
A couple years later when she got pregnant I wasn’t surprised to hear her say that she really wanted to try for a VBAC. She was nervous that she wouldn’t be able to do it. “Maybe my body can’t handle a natural labor,” she thought to herself. But then she remembered that her grandmothers had each had 5 children naturally and she carried their genes. If they could do it. She could do it too.
Kelly set an achievable goal to have a natural labor and delivery for her second pregnancy.
Pick Your Team
We had moved to a new neighborhood since Kelly’s first labor so her first order of business was to find a new doctor. VBACs are somewhat controversial and some doctors feel that they are two risky and will not take on patients interested in them. She turned to the internet and through various forums and websites was able to find a doctor in our area who supported VBAC’s. Even though his office and hospital were further away from our house Kelly scheduled an appointment with him and eventually chose him to be her doctor.
She also told me that she wanted to hire a doula, or labor coach. I immediately thought about the similarities between hiring a doula for VBAC labor and a guide to climb a mountain. Sure, you may be able to climb a mountain with little experience on your own if everything goes just right. But what about when something happens? Bad weather, an injury, a disruption in your plan. What do you do then? And what about all the tips and tricks to make it easier on yourself. Techniques you can use to tackle that mountain one step at a time.
This is just part of what I thought the doula would bring to the table. There is also the emotional support and motivation. This is a person who has been through this before and has the perspective to know that you can make it too.
Kelly was smart to surround herself with people knowledgeable in VBACs and supportive of her goal.
Do the Research
Kelly also began to read heavily on the topic of VBACs and natural labors on the internet. While I dive into the depths of the internet on a regular basis to learn about new topics it isn’t something I see her do regularly. It excited me to see her digging through various blogs and reading white papers that discussed the success rate and variables of a successful VBAC surgery.
She even attended a lecture on natural and home births given by a famous mid-wife who completely abhorred the idea of having a baby in a hospital. For a minute she considered a home birth using one of those birthing pools. That was when I knew she was really committed to this idea. If you knew my wife, the fact that she was embracing such a non conventional solution was a huge signal of how committed she was to achieving this goal. She left no stone unturned as she did the research.
Kelly did the necessary research and educated herself on all aspects of natural and VBAC labors.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
With a month to go Kelly and I had our first meeting with the doula. We talked about how the first labor went and what we envisioned for the second one. We talked about the various outcomes, risks, questions that might come up during the labor and how we were going to deal with them.
Kelly was given some exercises to perform every night to improve her focus and relaxation. Every night as we went to sleep she was repeating her mantra to herself and preparing herself for the big day.
I remember one night Kelly returned from work and was telling a story about how someone at work was talking about how their pregnancy had gone in a negative direction. She told me that she just excused herself from the conversation. That she didn’t need thoughts like that in her head.
Kelly refused to let doubt or fear enter her mind as she focused on a successful outcome.
Get It Done
It was Kelly’s exact due date and she hadn’t gone into labor yet. Kelly had gotten everything in order. The nursery was ready, laundry was done and put away, groceries were bought, and the house was clean. Everything was ready to go. Now we just needed a baby.
She had set a goal, picked her team, done the research, and prepared herself mentally.
But there was nothing. No contractions. No signs. Just waiting.
And then, I think she literally willed it to happen. At 4:00PM she started complaining of contractions. By 4:30 we were on the road to the hospital. By 5:00 we were admitted. By 6:00 the doula and the doctor were there. By 7:00 she was in full blown labor. By 7:41 she had given birth to a 7lb 14oz baby without one drop of medicine.
At various stages of the labor each piece of preparation played a crucial role. The team, the research, the mental preparation. All of it helped build towards a positive outcome. But, at the end of the day it all came down to Kelly pushing that baby out.
Kelly was focused and prepared and when it was time to “PUSH!” she got it done.
Minutes after Link was born he was laying in Kelly’s arms. He laid on her chest and she warmed his tiny body with her own body heat. He quickly started rooting around for some food and within minutes was nursing.
We took pictures and congratulated and thanked each other. The energy of the moment was so much happier then the first labor and I am so happy that Kelly achieved her goal and that I was there to experience it.