If you have had a cesarean, you have been branded with a scarlet letter C.
It doesn’t matter what the reason for your cesarean was. It doesn’t matter if you had a cesarean (or even two) due to a true life-or-death emergency. It doesn’t matter if your cesarean resulted from a failed induction that triggered fetal distress. It doesn’t matter if your cesarean was due to your doctor not wanting to miss his golf game.
The reason does not matter.
If you have had a cesarean, you have been branded with a scarlet C across your forehead for any and all subsequent births. You are no longer a patient evaluating her options. You are now a liability, a risk and a nuissance. The majority of midwives cannot take you as a patient due to legal restrictions on their licenses, most of these restrictions being based on outdated research and information. While the majority of midwives can’t take you, even if they wanted to, the majority of obstetricians won’t take you unless you agree to go under the knife once again. If by some “luck” (and I say that loosely) you find an obstetrician willing to take you and “allow” you to attempt a trial of labor, you will likely be given a laundry list of conditions you must meet in order for them to support you in your attempt at a vaginal delivery. Conditions such as going into labor naturally before 38 weeks, agreeing to an epidural immediately upon admission to the hospital, laboring no longer than x amount of hours, a baby weighing no more than x pounds as determined by ultrasound (which is highly inaccurate), and many other ridiculous conditions, all of which set women up to fail.
Don’t get me wrong. There are physicians out there who support a woman’s decisions relating to her birth, regardless of her surgical history, however, those physicians are few and far between and are often faced with professional repercussions and absurd hospital politics should they choose to go against hospital policies in their support of patient autonomy. I’ve seen it happen and it is an ugly, ugly battle that often ends in a truly honorable physician choosing to no longer care for these pregnant women.
Only in America would hospital policy be of more importance than doing the right thing.
Only in America would hospital policy be of more importance than respecting the educated and informed decisions of a patient.
Midwifery, for most of these scarlet-lettered mothers is not an option. In most regions, midwives are not legally able to attend the birth of a woman who has had a prior cesarean. Midwives who do so, are subject to losing their license to practice and may even face criminal charges. While lay midwives may be willing to attend the birth of a woman who has had a prior cesarean, obtaining these services can be tricky and costly, as a lay midwife would not likely be covered by insurance. Some women are fortunate enough to live in states that allows midwifery care for women with a prior cesarean, while this is a step in the right direction, these women are subject to a long list of conditions they must meet in order to qualify as a “good candidate” for midwifery care, the definition varying by state and often not aligned with other current criteria.
Because midwifery is, for the most part, not an option for these scarlet-lettered women, the services of an obstetrician are often sought. Unfortunately, the majority of obstetricians are not well-educated on vaginal birth after cesarean, and even among those that are, most are unwilling to support a woman wholly in their choice because it is a sacrifice on their part. A VBAC is a tremendous sacrifice on the part of the physician and takes a toll on not only the physician but his family and personal time, often due to hospital policies, insurance policies and even laws requiring specific presence and proximity when a patient is undergoing a trial of labor. These physicians are forced to spend more time (much of which, the necessity could be debated) and energy on a VBAC, and are paid less for a successful VBAC than a scheduled cesarean. Even the best, most committed and supportive physician would burn out given enough time. Unfortunately, the vast majority of physicians do not want to be bothered with this level of commitment and simply won’t take a VBAC patient. Some physicians might take a VBAC patient, but on their own conditions (see above) and these conditions often leave women high and dry, with little chance of success and no true support. They are telling you, “I will let you have a VBAC but only if you make it easy for me.” This does not help the large majority of these scarlet-lettered women.
So what options are left for you, Ms. Prynne? What can you do besides sit down, shut up and take what our government and medical establishments deem you worthy of?
Beyond midwifery (or the lack of) and a (likely unsupportive) obstetrician, you are left with one final option; go it alone. Give birth unassisted, without a midwife or physician, in your own home, with just your own knowledge and capabilities. This is, for most women, a very frightening idea. What is even more frightening, is that this is often the best option. Unassisted birth is an amazing thing, but what is not amazing, is that we live in a society where that scarlet letter C often leaves women with unassisted birth as their only option to avoid an unnecessary cesarean. Yet, despite being stuck between a rock and a hard place with this decision, women are still villified for utilizing this option, being told they are reckless, endangering their baby and in some extreme cases, have even been investigated by social services and had their children removed from their custody because they made the only decision they felt they had. Because they made the decision that they felt was ultimately, in their and their baby’s best interest.
People who argue against unassisted birth will often state that they are “all for homebirth being safe and accessible for all women,” but this sentiment has abslutely no value to those women who need those options NOW. This sentiment, while an admirable goal for our society, does not make the situation any better. It does not magically give these women who are due next week, next month or even next year the options that they deserve to have. This sentiment does quite the opposite, condemning the very difficult choices that have been made by these scarlet lettered women who refuse to sit down, shut up and take the scraps that have been thrown to them. These women have been denied a choice, denied options, and now, denied support from the very communities and groups of women that were established for just that purpose.
And that is the problem.
We live in a society where support, and even respect for a patient’s autonomy is conditional. It comes with stipulations. If you bear that scarlet letter C, your entire experience and how you will be treated is held together by thousands of tiny threads; each one a condition you are expected to meet, not only by care providers, but from your family, your friends, your neighbors, your peers, even the cashier at the grocery store. And if even one of those threads is missing, then you are reckless, selfish and ignorant. You are no longer worthy of support. Your thoughts, your opinions and your desires are no longer valid, even among others like you, bearing that scarlet letter C. You are wrong for wanting better. You are wrong for standing up for yourself and your baby beyond what is deemed “acceptable.” You are wrong.
And you should just sit back, shut up, take what you are given and be grateful for it.
I got my final results from 23andme a while ago and have been working on it daily. Unfortunately, I don’t have much as far as close matches on my paternal side. My closest match is Brandi, at 49.1cm and an estimated range of 3rd-4th cousins. Unfortunately, this doesn’t narrow it down too much. I have built a pretty extensive tree for her over the last few weeks, but I am still working on it diligently. I was able to ask her to upload to gedmatch which will hopefully give me more insight as to which line of her family I come from. My plan there, is to work with her highest matches that do not match me on gedmatch to determine which line they descend from. I will then be able to eliminate that line on her tree as being the line I am from, due to the fact I do not match her match.
I did make a discovery though. Through comparing notes with several genetic cousins, some closer, some further, I am 99.9% sure I descend from Stephen Caudill and Sarah Sally Adams. I was able to work seven or eight genetic cousins into their line, even one that only matches me 10cm… Which is super tiny! I wish it was a closer common ancestor though. If it were closer, I’d be able to trace it down much easier. I really can’t trace it down like this, as there’s several generations between myself and Stephen, and they grow exponentially every time a child has a child.
It’s still pretty cool to know a little bit about my paternal ancestry.
I did something really cool through gedmatch. I phased my mother’s kit with mine, which then creates a hybrid kit of my father’s genetics. It’s not 100% accurate, but its a good starting point. It told me his eyes are likely brown. And it gave me some ethnicity estimates, although those can be very tricky. Either way, I still like having that information
The car insurance comparison sites around at the moment do make life quite a lot easier, especially with the various gimmicks and offers available from most. Whether it’s free cinema tickets or a small amount of cash back, it’s always nice to get that little bit extra.
Happy anniversary to me!
Just kidding… No, really. May 15th (my little sister’s birthday) was the nine year anniversary of trying to find my father. Nine years. Nine longggg years. Nine *bleeping* years.
That’s a long time.
Anyway, as if to celebrate the nine year mark of my search for my biological father, my 23andme status was bumped up to Step 5: Initial Results. I didn’t get my ethnicity report immediately, like I thought I would, but they came the next day (Saturday). However, I couldn’t resist from running my raw genetic data through another program ( www.gedmatch.com ) to see what it had to say for my ethnic composition.
You’ll have to click on it to make it bigger and view the percentages. It surprised me a bit, as I didn’t expect Asian to be on there at all. Asian was probably the very last ethnicity I expected to be on my report. Either way, I’m being told that GEDmatch isn’t the best for ethnicity so I didn’t put too much faith into it. My 23andme results came in the next day.
These are more like I was expecting, but still… I didn’t expect any Middle Easter, North African, Asian, Native American or Sub-Saharan African. Some of the European covers the Iberian Peninsula and Mediterranean, as well as Poland, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine. I wasn’t surprised by those, except maybe the Iberian aspect. I knew there was Polish in my maternal grandfather’s line. At least I think I knew… I know I’ve heard there is, I just don’t remember where I heard it.
It also gave my my maternal haplogroup. I can’t see my paternal haplogroup unless I have a male paternal relative test, as the paternal haplogroup is passed down on the Y-chromosome. Being a girl, I have no Y chromosome and my son would have gotten his Y-chromosome from his father, making that useless in identifying my father’s line. I would need to test a son of my father’s, my father, or even my father’s brothers (if they all have the same father). I don’t think I have ever wished I was a boy in my life except for now… Just so I could have the information on that Y-chromosome.
So, while knowing my maternal haplogroup isn’t really helpful in identifying my paternal family, it is still very interesting to know. And as immature as it is, I find it giggle-worthy that the name of the people was “Saami” and my nickname is “Sammi.” I know, completely unrelated and coincidental, but fun!
Another interesting thing… I am 3.2% Neanderthal. I know everyone has it in them, but I have to admit, I was surprised to learn that I have more Neanderthal than 99% of the population… Sheesh. Way to go, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing self!
In the meantime, I have uploaded my raw data to www.gedmatch.com so if you want to compare our kits, my kit ID number is M798033. My data has been tokenized and can be compared one-to-one but it hasn’t been batched and can’t be compared one-to-many yet.
So now I wait for matches. I am dying for the matches part. I have read so much about all of this and I just want to jump in and start digging. I’ve learned so much about triangulation and how to identify lineage! I just want to apply it now!
m a My Ancestry test came in Saturday. Usually they keep it behind the desk but I made a friend at the post office and she knows that I’ve been waiting on it and put it in a lock box for me. Because it was the weekend it had to wait until Monday to go back in, but it’s on its way.
Ancestry is supposed to be one of the better tests for adoptees to do simply for the extremely late database. I think at this point, ancestry has over 850,000 people in their database. That’s a lot of people, but it makes it all the more likely that you’ll catch a hit to a genetic relative when you test.
I am very excited for these results. I’ve gone between a lot of different emotions. But right now, excited it working for me. It’s been a whirlwind of different emotions but now that I’m getting through more and more steps of the process, I am feeling better and better about it. At first I was at a standstill waiting, but then things started moving. First I ordered the tests, then they arrived, then I sent them in, now I’m waiting on results. The closer it gets. The calmer i feel about it, but also, the more excited I get.
Ive been pouring my heart into learning everything I can about genetic genealogy. Ive learned about different chromosomes, inheritance, triangulation and more. I’m ready. I don’t think I could be any more ready than I am.
23andme sent me an email today letting me know that my sample was received and that the testing process has begun. From others I have spoken to, 23andme is getting results about 14 days after the day bits mailed back. I mailed mine Wednesday and I paid to speed up the shipping so perhaps mine will be done soon? Tuesday the 12th would put me at 14 days so maybe I’ll get results sometime next week, or maybe I’ll get lucky and get them sooner.
Either way, I can’t wait.
I have had multiple DNA tests done on me. Some as a child. Most as an adult. They don’t get any easier the more I have. Each one is enough to drive me mad. Do I look like this man? Is this it? Is my search over? Am I going to get the answer I’ve been trying to for so long? Am I going to be right back where I started, plus out the hope, the time and the money for the test? If it’s negative, what next? If it’s positive, what next? What if I never find him? What if this is it? What if I wasted all this time and have nothing to show for it?
It’s enough to drive me crazy. Each and every time.
Then I get the results and my heart sinks to the very bottom of my little toe. Negative. It is always negative. At one point, I started to feel as though a positive just wasn’t possible for me.. ever. I feel absolutely crushed, but sadly unsurprised… every.single.time.
Except last time.
The last DNA test I had done, I saw that bold-type “0%” and I felt angry. It was this instantaneous rage and I said “Something isn’t right,” even though there was no one in the room with me. It just didn’t feel right. It still doesn’t feel right and it wasn’t just a passing thought or a fleeting idea. It’s been over a month and it still feels wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Every little bit of it feels wrong and the more I sit on it, the more I dwell on it, the more I talk about it, the more I write about it, the more wrong it feels. Just when I think it can’t feel any more wrong or any more off than it does, a week passes and it feels a million times more wrong than it did before. And I can’t shake it.
I can’t shake the feeling.
No matter how I try. No matter how I try to rationalize it. No matter how many other theories I entertain, I can’t shake the feeling something is wrong. And at the end of the day, when I try to calm my thoughts for the night, it comes down to this…
Something doesn’t add up.
I don’t like to call anyone a liar, but sometimes it is what it is. Especially when the lies are so obvious. Maybe they weren’t intentional lies. Maybe they were the result of confusion, but regardless, they sure as hell aren’t the truth. Intentional or not, the truth is what I am after and I can’t shake the feeling that what I was getting from Raymond wasn’t the truth.
- The “Black Cloud”
Raymond claims to have a “black cloud” over that time in his life and he “can’t remember” things from that time. He seems to rely on whatever it is his ex-wife, Carla, tells him is true and defends whatever she tells him, quite vehemently, regardless of his own inability to remember it for himself. What is even stranger, is that most of what his ex-wife has told him doesn’t make sense. His ex-wife claims that she and my mother “ran around together.” Funny. My mom said they weren’t close and only hung out a couple times in her living room with Carla’s baby. Carla also seems to know a great deal about my mother’s pregnancy… Which is odd considering the timeline and the fact my mother didn’t tell anyone and skipped state before she was showing. He claims he does not even know who my mother is or remember her at all. Strangely, despite his inability to remember anything from that time, he remembered enough to make a suggestion as to who he thinks my father might be.
- Pregnancy length
His ex-wife supposedly “confirmed” that my mother and Larry got married because she was pregnant with me. They were married December 1, 1987. I was born October 21, 1988. In order for this to be true, my mother would have to have been pregnant, at minimum, 11 months and 3 weeks. I pointed this out numerous times and was met with the very aggressive defense that he “confirmed it with multiple sources.” I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter what these “sources” say. It is simply impossible. Absolutely and utterly impossible. The dates don’t lie. The hospital records don’t lie. Her marriage record and my birth record (which are publicly available) do not lie. What he is saying and what he believes to be true, is not possible. He even argued with me over this after the results came back, insisting that “It’s the real story,” and that he “confirmed it.” Repeatedly. And when I told him it wasn’t possible, only continued to argue with me. The story changed a couple times too.. She was already pregnant… Then he didn’t know her when she was pregnant.
He does not believe he could be my father because he was gone in February and missed his oldest son’s first birthday, on February 2nd. Clearly, he was gone early in the month, but he doesn’t remember when in January he left Alaska. I would have been conceived (with a generous allotment of time on either side) between January 20, 1988 and February 4, 1988. I am a pregnancy, birth and fertility guru. I have run these dates, run these numbers, given my bests guesses and estimates over and over and over. This is the best time frame I can come up with and unless he knows for sure that he wasn’t in the state at all in that window, then I can’t rule it out.
- Legal test
I wanted a legal test, as I want with every DNA test I have done. Yes, it costs more money but that extra money buys me peace of mind. That extra money buys me photographing, fingerprinting, identification and a chain of custody. That extra money ensures that the party I want tested, is actually participating in the test. I paid for the legal test and he was supposed to call and confirm a clinic location. He claimed they couldn’t do it for him because he was in Dubai. I later found out (after calling the clinic) that they could have but he argued and refused to involve a local hospital, physician or clinic, “due to the culture.” Which, if you believe mainstream media of the middle east, is understable. But when one of my best friends is middle eastern and her entire family lives there and she’s extremely familiar with it and knows that it can be done there? Then yeah, it looks suspicious that he won’t do a legal test, especially when the clinic tells me they tried to make it happen and he was the one who was unwilling.
- Follow-up test
Despite my reluctance to do a home test, I agreed on the condition that a follow-up legal test be done if the home test was negative. I let him know that if it is negative, I would want a follow-up test with confirmed identity, or a test against one of his relatives here in the United States. He agreed. In fact, he said, “I’m ok with that plan… At this point I am not prepared for you to come here. So this plan works for me. Rest assured I will be honest with my swab.” When I requested that confirmation test, he told me “If this test we just did is a trustworthy approach to testing and you trust the testing center than you can count on the result as being final. I fulfilled my promise to you. If you want confirmation testing you will only be wasting money, time because the result will be the same. I’m so sorry for you and wish this would have ended your quest.” I told him that if that’s the case, it won’t hurt to test again. He repeatedly told me it won’t change the results, it will only waste time and money, he’s not my father, instead of just agreeing to a legal test.
I asked him for copies of his alleles from other DNA tests he’s done. Since I was the only one with the results, I was hoping to compare his alleles to the ones of my test. If I had a positive test of his, and the alleles matched the ones on my test, I’d know he was being honest. Unfortunately, the only test of the two he could find, had four alleles that I did not have on my test since mine was a motherless test. I asked him to keep looking for the other one. He asked me for a copy of my test. Why? I’m not just going to hand over that data to be forged. Needless to say, he hasn’t said a word more about finding the other test.
He didn’t even want to take a home test initially. He repeatedly told me how “devastating” a positive would be, despite me telling him (and meaning it) that no one had to know and I wouldn’t breathe a word. It took me suggesting that I could take a test with his family and letting him know that I wouldn’t be giving up just because he told me no to get him to agree. Trust me, there was no limit to the ways he could let me know that a positive DNA test with me would be the absolute worst thing that could happen to him.
These are just a few of the many, many, many reasons why I feel off about this man and the test he submitted. Not to mention, his daughter and his second son look so much like me. They look more like me than any of my mother’s children do… and we know I’m related to them for sure! Heck, his granddaughter could be my daughter’s clone. There’s no denying the insane amount of visual similarities… Something I have never encountered with other candidates.
Maybe I’m right. Maybe he lied. Maybe he lied through his damn teeth. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s just got an extremely shotty memory and is extremely ignorant when it comes to human reproduction. Who knows? I certainly don’t and there’s no way for me to know until I figure all of this out and piece together this insane jigsaw puzzle.
As much as people want to suggest it, I do not think that there is any other possibility for my father. I just don’t. Maybe I’ll find that out when the genetic tests come back, but until then, I really don’t think it is.
Another option is that one of my legal tests was wrong. Maybe there was an error in the lab. Maybe a sample got switched. Maybe a machine was acting up the day my sample was tested. Who knows? I don’t. But like I said in a previous blog post, if this is the case, I know enough about those men that I should be able to see that direction in the results. I will say though, that if one of my legal tests was wrong and I can prove it, I will sue the lab for the emotional turmoil and absolute devastation I have been though for the last nine years. But, really, I think this is extremely unlikely.
If I had to put numbers on it, I’d say that there’s a 99.9% chance that something was wrong with Raymond’s test, a 0.05% chance that one of my previous legal tests were wrong and a 0.05% chance that there’s another possibility.
That’s it. That’s how I feel about it. So far in life, my gut hasn’t steered me wrong. Why would it now? The only way to find out is to wait for these tests. And you know, trace back his paternal lineage 5 generations, fill in about 200+ relatives and identify about thirty possible surnames. At this point, I’m willing to wager that I know more about his family history than he does.
But now we wait.
I’ve been putting off writing this. Of course, inspiration and motivation only come to me at night when I’m already warm and cozy in bed. Either way, I want this process documented. I didn’t keep it as documented as I should have for each of my tests, but this one, I am. This one is the big one (although I wish one of the others would have been a big one). This one will help me to figure it out once and for all. At least I sincerely hope it will. The odds are good. And between the assistance I have through my DNA and search groups, as well as the methodology for triangulating matches that is available, I think I can do it. I really do.
My situation is different than most who are on the DNA and search groups I’m on. There’s a lot of adoptees searching, or individuals who don’t have a relationship with a family member and have been unable to locate them. My situation is different in the fact that I am not adopted, but my lineage is unknown. I know nothing. I know what I suspect, but who’s to know if what I suspect to be true, is actually true? Because of this, it’s been difficult to figure out what I need to do. I’ve decided to approach is as an adoptee. I know as much (or as little) as a closed-adoption adoptee would know about their biological father. Perhaps even less in the fact that I couldn’t even get non-identifying info even if I wanted to.I am fortunate in that I am aware of my mother’s lineage and can eliminate that from my search. I know that side and with her testing, it should be relatively easy to eliminate any of her matches from being on my paternal line.
I found a great site called DNAadoption.com. While the site is geared toward adoptees who are using autosomal testing to identify their biological family, it still serves my purposes. It has testimonials, information on where to begin, where to test, what to look for in matches, how to triangulate matches and so much more. Triangulating is (from what I can tell) the hard part. You send your sample, get your results and from that point on, it is up to you to figure out how your matches connect to you and then how they connect to your biological parent; in my case, my biological father.
I do have another slight advantage over an adoptee. I have someone I strongly suspect to be my father and I have managed to trace his paternal line back nearly five generations and then back down to present day, filling in countless cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and in-laws. In total, I have 200+ relatives mapped and figured out on his paternal side. I have yet to figure out his mother’s side, but I do have his paternal side and about 30 possible paternal surnames. This could be useful when I get my genetic matches. Maybe it won’t be, but if he is my father (as I suspect), then there’s no telling what names may come up as being a match.
Another possibility is that one of my legal paternity tests was wrong. I highly doubt this possibility as this would be incredibly rare and unlikely with a legal DNA tests (all of mine with the exception of the most recent one were legal paternity tests). If this is the case, I know enough about most of these men and am on good enough terms with most of these men that it wouldn’t be as challenging (I don’t think…) to determine relation. I am aware of these men, their families and their surnames as well. I am perhaps not as aware of the entire family tree and surnames dating as far back for these men as I am of the family tree, but I think I am aware enough that if the results started to lead in that direction, I would recognize it.
The information on those pages and tutorials is a little hard for me to digest and understand. I think part of it may be because I don’t know what I am looking at quite yet. I don’t have my results in front of me. I have no way to visualize or begin to familiarize myself with what these things are until they come in.
So for now, I wait.
I wasn’t supposed to get my test kit from 23andme until tomorrow, so I was thrilled it came early today. How often does the United States Postal Service actually deliver things AHEAD of time? I was pretty shocked, but I guess it makes up for them delivering three packages sent from the same place, on the same day at the same time on three different days. If this is their way of apologizing, then I’ll take it!
The test was pretty easy, but I was nervous I’d screw it up. I don’t think I did, but we’ll see. I did shake the tube with the funnel still attached (oops) but it all looks like it went into the vial so hopefully it’s good! I guess we will see if I did an okay job or not once the results are processed. One of my friends just did the test and from the day she mailed it back to the day she got her results, it was 15 days. I am hoping they are quick with mine too, but the site says as long as 4-6 weeks (or maybe it was 6-8?) Either way, I’ve heard from multiple people that 23andme’s turnaround time right now is about two weeks. I was feeling impatient though and slapped a priority label over the prepaid first class one so it would get there in 2 days instead of up to 2-4 weeks (as according to 23andme’s website). It was only $5.50 so I’m fine with that if it means my sample gets in and tested more quickly.
This is just the first of three tests I will be doing. Ancestry’s DNA test was ordered the same day, but it isn’t expected to arrive until Monday. Kind of lame, especially considering they double billed me too, but at least I will have some information start trickling in through the other services! Once 23andme results are in, I can import them to Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch for even more information.
I will admit, I felt stupid spitting into a tube. How often do I tell my kids not to spit in things? And here I am spitting into a tube. At least I did it when they weren’t home so they couldn’t tell me “but you did it once!” the next time I catch them. Even though I felt stupid, the results will be worth it and at least the countdown to something has begun. I am no longer at a standstill. I am now waiting for one set of results, and once those are in, I can start digging. And while I’m digging into those, other results will begin to trickle in.
And eventually, I will figure this out.
I am quite literally at the end of my search for my father.
The results are in. I haven’t read them but they are in. I will know in a matter of minutes if David Blanchard is my father or if I will never know who my father is. Regardless of what the results are, this is huge. This is HUGE. People have told me I should be “used” to this rollercoaster by now. Maybe. But this time is different. This time, it’s the end. This is it. If this is negative, there is no plan B. There is no one else to keep looking for.
This is it.
And that scares me.
Several people have asked me what I am going to do if it is positive. What am I going to do if it is negative. The answer is, I really don’t know. Live in the moment. React as it hits me. Either way, I have no idea. I have spent so much time looking that I really never thought much past finding these men, let alone the test results. I don’t know. I really don’t know.
But the results are in.
This is it, kid.
I have had two prior cesareans, one in 2007 and one in 2009, both caused by failed inductions and the dreaded cascade of interventions. Both of these cesareans could have been prevented. In 2011 I had a successful vaginal birth after two prior cesareans (VBA2C) naturally without pain medications in a hospital five hours from home. Unfortunately, in my community, no obstetrician was willing to support my desire for a vaginal birth due to my history of cesarean sections. In order to obtain the care of an obstetrician who supported my decision to attempt a vaginal birth despite my prior cesareans, I had to travel five hours from home and stay in a hotel for three weeks prior to giving birth. That birth was an incredibly healing and empowering experience for me.
With my fourth pregnancy, I had planned to do the same, traveling to the obstetrician who assisted in the delivery of my third child. I had toyed with the idea of an unassisted birth at the hotel I would stay at (that way I would be near the physician I chose, should complications arise), but I wasn’t sure what I wanted and I went back and forth on the decision a great deal. I would have loved a midwife to attend my birth, however, in Alaska midwives cannot legally attend the birth of a woman who has had prior cesareans. I could have hired an unlicensed midwife, but I didn’t feel like that was the right decision for me.
Despite my indecision, I continued making my monthly appointments with my obstetrician so far from home. At my last appointment, he apologized to me and let me know he would be out of the country near my due date and would arrive back in Alaska on the morning of my due date. Initially, I was upset, worried about how this would change my plans and how this would affect my birth. He and his wife reassured me that the new doctor with their practice was equally as amazing, however, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it. I worried about it a great deal, but then I realized…
This was my sign.
I had already been considering an unassisted birth. This was my sign to do it. I was nervous at first, and I struggled to calm down the ten million “what-if” questions and fears I had. Fortunately, I made the decision early enough in my pregnancy that I still had a great deal of time to research and educate myself and I did just that. I read everything I could. I gathered a small list of supplies and I went into it preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.
For the most part, my pregnancy was uneventful. I suffered from morning sickness until 22 weeks, and came down with a ridiculous amount of sinus infections, colds, flus and even pertussis. I had two out of the three migraines I have ever experienced during this pregnancy, and some pre-term contractions that left me pretty nervous, but overall, things were relatively mellow. I started getting pretty regular braxton hicks contractions around 36 weeks, some of which made me think it might be time, only to disappear and fizzle out as soon as I attempted to time them. The back pain was the worst part of it all. I practically lived at the chiropractor’s office. I started going once a week at 30 weeks, then twice a week at 35 weeks and by 37 weeks, I was going three times a week.
On December 8, one of my doulas texted me to check in. I told her I was having some contractions, but I was going to time them before I called her and my other doula to come. They both lived almost two hours away and I did not want to call them up for a false alarm! I continued timing them while I was cleaning house and they seemed to be consistent. I decided to lay down and time them to see if my physical activity was causing the contractions. As soon as I laid down they started spacing out. They were still stronger, but the timing made me think it wasn’t the real deal. I texted both of my doulas and let them know that the contractions were subsiding and I would keep them posted.
I watched some television with my husband and by 11pm, I noticed my contractions were picking back up, even when I was leaning back and relaxing. I timed them for a while and they seemed to be picking up again. They started hurting more and were getting pretty uncomfortable. Moving was beginning to hurt and changing positions was painful. By 3am, I was 100% sure I was in labor, but I decided to do my best to sleep while I could. I knew it was only going to get worse and as a doula, I have seen the importance of resting in early labor firsthand, as well as the impact that rest or lack of can have on a woman’s birth. I slept the best I could until 7am, waking up with each contraction.
I got out of bed at 7am, got in the bath tub and texted my sister, my friend and my doulas, letting them know it was time. It wasn’t unbearable yet, but it was hurting and requiring my focus. I knew that by the time my doulas arrived, I would likely need them. My sister texted me back letting me know she was on her way to school but her dad would drop her off. She showed up just in time to get my oldest ready for school (I had completely forgotten she needed to get ready) and to the bus stop while I laid in the tub.
When I got out of the tub, I started cleaning my house, pausing for contractions. Prior to giving birth, I had been very worried about my birth pictures looking awful because of the house being a mess. I had a housekeeper for a while, but she was also pregnant and her doctor told her she needed to stop working for a while due to some problems. Because of this, I was extremely worried about the house and how it would look in the photos. I kept telling everyone that I was almost willing to go to the hospital if it meant the pictures would have a clean background! Fortunately, my sister, Tori, my friend, Chelsea and I were able to get the house in decent shape and my husband took the other two kids to my grandma’s house.
I laid down on our area rug for a while and my sister painted my nails. I didn’t ask her to. She just wanted to and I decided to let her. I’d lay there, relaxing, half-sleeping and she’d work on my nails. I’d feel a contraction coming on and she’d drop my hand and I’d get on all fours, being very careful not to mess up my wet nails, and wait until the contraction was over. Then she would resume painting them. Unfortunately, I managed to mess up the polish on my right index finger several times. Tori had to repaint it more times than I remember. The last time I messed it up, she looked like she wanted to smack me!
I was still laying on the area rug when my doulas, Tammie and Megan, showed up. My friend Danielle (also a doula) was supposed to be there for the birth as well, but she texted me when I had been in the tub that morning telling me she had the flu. My exact word were “Shit. Because I’m definitely in labor.” It ended up being better that she wasn’t there. Tammie and Megan were amazing. When Tammie and Megan first arrived, I wasn’t hurting too terribly. I’d have to interrupt whatever we were talking about and focus on the contraction, but I’d bounce right back. Megan did a lot of counter-massage on my sacrum, which felt amazing. The harder she did it, the better it felt during a contraction. She was so worried she was bruising me (I think she did) but it helped so much that I didn’t care.
At one point, I sent Dan to get a “fluffy towel” and steamed rice. Just like with my third baby, I craved nothing but rice items. Steamed rice. Rice cakes. Rice chex. It didn’t matter. I wanted rice. Plain rice. Dan attempted to argue with me about the towel, telling me that we had plenty of towels and I told him its for the baby once she is born and that it needs to be fluffy. I think he was a bit baffled because I just kept insisting it must be fluffy!
Then came the awesome part. Getting the tub blown up. The air pump ended up breaking part way through filling it so one of my doulas ended up blowing it up (and she was super early in her own pregnancy!) Then even worse, I realized we didn’t have a clean hose to fill it up. Just a hose that had come with the house when we bought it and had been sitting outside for the last five years. So my doulas, my friend Chelsea and my sister were all running from the kitchen sink and the bathtub with pots full of hot water. I felt bad they had to fill my massive deluxe size tub with nothing but pots!
I didn’t want to get into the tub until my water broke. My last labor, it was 13 hours from my water breaking until the actual birth. I knew it was going to get more intense once my water broke, so I wanted to hold off on getting in the pool until then. So, until then, we all hung out, talking and laughing, pausing for contractions where I’d lean over the birth ball and Megan would put pressure on my hips and rub my back.
Megan and Tammie would both remind me to get up and move around. I got a little immature at that point, laying on the ball, I’d exclaim “It’s a trap!!!!” any time they suggested I get up and move around. I knew they were right. They knew that I knew they were right. And we just had a humorous battle of the wills at times. It was fun going, relaxing and easy. I felt like we were just hanging out and in between contractions, I’d sometimes forget I was even in labor!
I made faces all throughout labor. Just being a dork for the camera. Dan called it “The Many Faces of Sammi.”
And yes, I did straighten my hair during labor and I did my makeup! I never wear makeup but I wanted to in labor!
This was by far my easiest, most relaxing, enjoyable birth experience. Dan was working on the computer during the majority of my labor, which I told him to. He had never been to a birth before (not even our three other kids) and I wanted him there but I didn’t want him just sitting around feeling awkward and unsure what to do in labor. I don’t think he wanted to either. A few points, he tried to ask me work-related questions while in labor and I responded “I’m kind of busy here! DO WHAT YOU WANT!”
My 18-year-old sister Sophie showed up while I was in labor, but not intentionally. She was swinging by to drop off some turkey that my grandpa smoked up for me and apparently no one told her I was in labor. She walked in and stopped dead in her tracks, looking at my two doulas, the birth ball and my pool and said “I’m thinking I probably should’t leave…” It was funny because I told her she could be there prior to going into labor and she insisted, quite strongly, that she wanted nothing to do with being at the birth, at all, in no way, no shape, no firm. But when it came down to it and she showed up, she didn’t want to leave.
Things were progressing, but slowly. I checked myself once every six hours. I didn’t want to psych myself out worrying about dilation too much, so I really forced myself to restrict it. My 15-year-old sister had a band recital at 7, so when it got closer, she asked if it was safe for her to go. I didn’t expect to have the baby before she got back so I told her it should be fine and she left. After all, my last birth was thirteen hours from water breaking to birth. I assumed I would have more time to go.
I got to the point where I felt like I had to pee a lot and the final time I went to the bathroom, I sat down and my water burst all over the floor and it was so loud it echoed off the walls. I got wide-eyed, surprised that it was so loud and then Megan calls through the door, “Did you puke or did your water break?” I told her my water broke and that it was clear (my last baby had meconium) and then I hear people laughing outside the door. After I open it, Megan and Tammie helped clean up the water (I tried but didn’t like bending like that) and I got in the pool. Of course, I get in the pool and Dan walks by, talked to me a bit and smiled and I instantly said “Don’t you dare make any whale jokes!” For those who don’t know, we’ve had a running inside joke relating to me being a whale since 2009. We have had some pretty good ones back and forth, but I was hugely pregnant, in labor, in a giant pool in our kitchen. I was just WAITING for the whale joke. My husband burst out laughing and told me he wasn’t going to make one. Yeah, right!
Side note… This is my absolute favorite picture from Vada’s birth, and surprisingly, it was only about an hour before she was born! I love how relaxed and happy and calm I was.
I only spent about two hours in the tub before Vada was finally born. I will admit, I panicked a bit when my water broke. All I could think was that my last baby it was 13 hours from my water breaking to birth. I was tired. I didn’t want to be in labor another thirteen hours. I didn’t think I could do it. Tammie reminded me that this isn’t Ava (my last baby) and this birth is different, this baby is different, this pregnancy is different. I’m in the comfort of my home, with people I care about around me, no hospital, no nurses, nothing to disturb my peace. That pep talk was really helpful and helped me to calm down and enjoy the process.
Then I got a bit worried again. The water had been clear initially but when I got in the tub, it was light green. The baby had passed meconium. Initially, I wasn’t too worried, but then I got a bit concerned. I worried I wasn’t being as attentive as I should be. I doubted my own gut feeling (that I didn’t need to go in) on the sole basis of “what if I’m wrong?” We talked about it a bit and we even got in touch with a friend of one of my doulas who is a midwife who was able to confirm the information I already knew and put my mind at ease. I decided to stay home.
Labor got much more intense, much more quickly. I got much louder than I did with my last baby, partly I think because I was at home where I was more comfortable and more relaxed. I spent a lot of time focusing on deep, long noises and it really seemed to help. I gave birth in December, and the really hot water, with my kitchen door open to let in the freezing Alaska air felt incredible. It was like sitting in a hot tub outside in the dead of winter. It was amazing. It makes me want to only have winter babies from now on.
I had the feeling I was fully dilated but the contractions weren’t changing. They felt different, but they didn’t feel like they were transitioning. I asked everyone “Do you think if I push just a little it might help? I can’t feel her head yet.” I decided to try and gave a super-weak, super-pathetic push and instantly yelped “That was a bad idea!” It all of a sudden double in intensity and hurt like none other. It was at this point that the only comfortable position I could lay in, was over the side of the tub.
This was when it got crazy. Dan came over, without me calling him to. I asked him later how he knew it was time and his response was “You started acting even crazier. Crazy=baby is almost here.” Thanks, Dan, thanks.
Funny thing is, my sister Sophie (in the back smiling in the photo above) and my doula Megan (you can see her legs on the right above) both got hands full of vagina water. I felt so bad. Every time I’m in labor, I get that strange falling sensation, like you’re rolling out of bed, when I have a contraction, unless I’m holding someone’s hands. If I hold onto someone’s hand, I feel fine. I went to check where baby’s head was and instantly contracted and grabbed my sister’s hand. Her eyes just popped wide and she said “I… have vagina all over my hand…” I instantly start apologizing and she tells me “It’s just skin…” Then a few minutes later on the other side of the pool, I do the same thing to Megan. Her response was more laughter filled and less awkward than my sister’s though, as I apologized all upset that I did that to her. (I’m pretty sure the picture above was taken right after I grabbed her hand with vagina water).
You know you’re loved when you can grab someone’s hand covered in vagina water and they’re not mad at you for it.
So then I gave up. I decided I couldn’t do it. It was too hard. It hurt to much. I am pretty sure I told Dan and everyone else that I was dying, at least a few dozen times at this stage. Then I started crying. Full on, ugly-face, tears dropping crying my head off. I told Dan I needed drugs and Dan did something incredible. This man, who had never been to a birth and passes out just talking about needles, asked me “How soon after you asked for drugs was Ava (our previous baby) born?” I answered “Five minutes.” He asked, “Do you still want drugs?” Of course, at this point, I said yes. We could go to the hospital, get me a shot of morphine, sign out against medical advice and come back home. And he countered with “You know you’re going to have the baby before you get to the hospital, right?” I nodded and pouted. “Do you really want to give birth in your new Cadillac?” I shook my head, still pouting. I probably looked ridiculous and child-like at this point.
Sure enough, a few moments later, I felt a strong surge and her head crowned, just as my doulas and my sister and friend started to excitedly exclaim that they could see her head. I pulled every ounce of strength in my body I had to push her out as quickly as I could. I wanted her out. I wanted to see her. I wanted to meet her.
I had been laying over the side of the tub when she was born, but I wanted to deliver her myself. Tammie helped to hold her in place under the water so I could flip over and lift her up myself. That was the most amazing experience of my life. Seeing my brand new baby under the water and being the one to lift her up and bring her into the world. I lifter her slowly, wiping downward on her face (because of the meconium) and slowly pulling her up out of the water.
At first, she didn’t cry. I panicked. I instantly doubted everything I had done and worried I had done something incredibly stupid having her at home, unassisted. All in a matter of moments. I jostled her, patted her, blew in her face and I heard a weird noise come from her.
She was snoring.
No joke. That little turkey was asleep. Her birth was so peaceful and tranquil that she fell asleep during her birth. She slowly stirred and gave out a tiny cry when the cameras started going off and a wave of relief (and slight annoyance!) washed over me. I couldn’t believe she had slept through her own birth! After the adrenaline from the panic subsided I started thinking about how cool it was that Vada had such a peaceful, tranquil birth that she slept right through it.
I immediately put her to the breast and held her and loved on her while we waited for the placenta. The placenta didn’t take long with my last baby (but they used fundal massage on me), so I was surprised when it took so long with Vada. I sat in the pool for about 45 minutes waiting, attempting to push it out, with no results. I put Vada in a towel in Dan’s arms, still attached to me, deciding to get out and see if laying down to push would help, only for the placenta to fall out entirely on its own the second I stood up. We scooped up the placenta and I got out of the pool and sat down in one of the computer chairs, the placenta in a pot next to us. I held Vada while we burned the umbilical cord.
The cord burning took a little longer than I thought it would, but it was pretty cool. It didn’t take too terribly long. I knew the blood gasses would make it pop but I didn’t expect it to be as long as it was! We had to relight the candles and the cord finished burning and sepearated. We then used a 4×4″ folded piece of gauze, wrapped the cord in it and placed it in the top of her diaper.
She nursed the entire time we were burning her cord! Her birth was so incredible, amazing and personal. I won’t lie. I was afraid when I first started considering an unassisted birth. I had a lot of fears. A lot of worries. A lot of “what ifs.” But the closer I got to my due date, the less worried I got. And now, having done it, I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
I should be working out right now. Not updating my blog I’ve left locked down and collecting dust for the last two or three years. I realized I still get a great deal of hits on my blog and I still have subscribers. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe you guys were checking in on me. Maybe you were. Maybe you weren’t. Maybe it was just webcrawlers looking for new pages to index for search engines. Regardless, I’m alive. I’m here.
And a great deal has changed.
To start, Averly does not have cerebral palsy. No one really knows what she has but their best guess is an unidentified metabolic disorder; a combination of missing or defective proteins in the body, non-inherited, present from the moment of conception. Many hospitalizations and tests later, we know her treatment is symptomatic and supportive. We are fortunate she is a happy, healthy, “normal” little girl 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time, she has us terrified. We kept her on donor milk until February of 2014, her third birthday. We didn’t stop because she was too old though, we stopped because she now has a little sister and I am able to pump for her if needed.
Vada Jane was born at home, unassisted, December 9, 2013 with two doulas, my husband, my friend and two of my sisters present for her birth. It was the first birth my husband attended, and was without complication and by far, the best birth experience I have had. I was laughing and smiling and joking just an hour before she was born (and it was a 23 hour labor).
I was hospitalized for seven days five days after I gave birth for complications postpartum, unrelated to the birth. I spent a week on a pain medication drip while fighting off a uterine infection.
I finally launched Intuitive Childbirth; a doula training program I have been working on and developing since before my son was born. It has been a learning process, but as it develops and continues, so do I. There’s only room to improve and if you’re doing that, you’re in good shape. I’ve learned that not everyone is going to like me or what I’m doing, but it doesn’t matter what they think of me, as long as I know what I’m doing is right and I believe in it.
Our herbal supplement business has still continued to grow and thrive. We’ve expanded the http://www.portableacnerd.com/best-portable-air-conditioner/ line to include many new products and intend to keep doing so also .
My oldest finishes Kindergarten this week. I still can’t believe how old she is and how smart she is… Or how creepy she can be. Remind me later to tell you about our discussion about the Bubonic Plague.
I turned her car seat forward facing when she was six years and three months old last fall. It still feels weird to see her forward facing. I turned her brother forward facing last week. Now I have two forward facing and two rear facing car seats in my car. No more of this;
Speaking of cars, my husband bought me my dream car. Used, but new to me and I love it.
I got maternity pictures done with Vada. Something I always regretted not doing with the other kids. This one is my favorite. And yes, I finally decided to give leggings a try. After all of my resistance, I’ve come to discover if you can find a pair that fits nicely, they aren’t so bad… Even if I do feel naked wearing them.
I finally finished remodeling my kitchen. As clean as it is in this picture, it is very difficult to maintain with four kids. Okay… Impossible.
I suffered from serious postpartum anxiety disorder after having Vada. When it got worse, I learned who my real friends were, and who was just using me. It reminded me not to put up with anyone who treats me like a doormat, or to tolerate people who are only there for me when it is convenient for them.
And last but not least, I am waiting on the result of another DNA test. I should know by Tuesday. Here’s to hoping.
And hey! Look! No baby in the picture this time! I’m sure I could have done it again but she was asleep in the car with Dan and Tori. But here’s last time! Baby on a boob.