The (Very Long) Story of My VBAC

How Lincoln Alexander Johnson came into this world

That one time we were famous…

Here is an article published by Raising Arizona Kids magazine featuring my family. Pushing a baby out of my vagina earned me about 30 seconds of fame. It was pretty cool. I’m not going to lie.

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My VBAC: Lincoln’s Birth Story (WARNING: Graphic language and photos)

So, I may have mentioned that I’m not a very patient person. This is especially true at the end of pregnancy and even more so at the end of this pregnancy.

I’m pretty lucky when it comes to pregnancy I guess. I get very little morning sickness. I don’t ever have to get up at night to pee. I don’t swell or get acne or gain weight in any place but my belly. And, most importantly, I don’t turn into a hormonal mess. But, for whatever reason, this baby decided to make me a crazy person right before he made his arrival which made waiting for him all the more difficult.

I can honestly say that the last few days of my pregnancy were the hardest I’ve ever had with either of my kids. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was uncontrollably sobbing anytime my mind wasn’t completely occupied by something else. And, I was hardly sleeping at all. I went into labor with Cooper naturally at 38 weeks 5 days. I think my psyche took a toll on my body when I past this point in my pregnancy with Lincoln without so much as a hint that he was coming anytime soon. I think VBAC mom’s have an extra pressure as well. Induction increases risk of c-section so you want to avoid that at all costs and going “overdue” lowers the VBAC success rate slightly. So, the closer I got to my due date, the more I lost my mind.

To help, I reached out to the ICAN group (Godsend), Kimberly called me (not happy that she had to read about my state of mind on facebook) and encouraged me to try to relax and keep my mind busy, and, at my 39 week appointment I vented to Belinda. Belinda suggested that I was possibly holding myself back from going into labor subconsciously. I didn’t feel like I was. I felt totally prepared for the road I was heading down. I made peace with the idea of a repeat c-section in the event that I needed one. I knew I was going to be proud of myself for birthing my way regardless of the outcome. I knew I had a good team behind, I trusted my instincts, and all my ducks were in a row. The only thing that could fail me was my body and I was mentally prepared for that outcome. But, I wasn’t about to rule anything out and I was willing to do just about anything to get my labor started. So, the minute I got of my appointment, I texted Kimberly, let her know what Belinda said, and asked her if we could do a fear release. She agreed to come over the very next night.

January 9, 2013:

My sister came by in the morning with a “waiting for labor” care package for me. It included candy, puzzles, bath salts, aromatherapy, and cozy pj’s. She knows me so well. As soon as she left I ate the candy (obviously). When Quinn got home I locked myself in the bathroom. I ran a bubble bath, lit the aromatherapy oils, and soaked in the salts. It was amazing. When I got out, I put on my new, cozy, pj’s and felt totally rejuvenated for my fear release.


Kimberly came by a little later that night. We talked at length, she did some acupressure, and then I laid on the bed while she walked me through a fear release. This being my first fear release I was unsure of what to expect. It was a lot like my hypnobirthing relaxation scripts. I immediately got calm and relaxed and started visualizing. Because I couldn’t specifically identify anything that I was afraid of, Kimberly just walked me through a general one. She guided me through my past birth experience. In my visualization I got to rip out any pages of that book that I didn’t want anymore and only hold on to the good memories from that experience. (I threw out a lot of pages!) Then I got to visualize the upcoming birth. The images my mind conjured up almost bought me to tears. When it was over, I was feeling a ton better. I knew that it was going to be enough to sustain me and keep me sane at least until my due date (January 14th).

January 10, 2013:

I woke up around 3:00AM with a pretty strong contraction. It felt different from the ones that I had been having previously. The best way to describe it is to say that it was a little more intense. As if it was doing more work. I got secretly excited and went back to sleep. I had a few more contractions like that but, just when I went to start timing them, they’d stop. Anyway, I got up that morning around 7, went to the bathroom, and saw “show!” I literally yelled, “yes!” I knew it was for real now. I was definitely in labor. My contractions weren’t consistent yet but I figured that was around the corner. I texted my sister to let her know that I couldn’t go out with her that morning and, around 8:30, I texted Kimberly.

My text read: Hi. Don’t laugh but I think I’m in labor J I’ve been having contractions since around 3am. They’re not consistent really but they’re pretty painful and I’m having show when I go to the bathroom. I don’t need anything right now but I wanted to give you a heads up.

She was excited to hear that, asked me about my contractions, and told me to rest. I let her know that resting was the plan along with taking a walk later to hopefully get my contractions more consistent. Which is exactly what I did. Quinn was home that day, partially to help me because I had become insane in the last few days and partially because he wanted to use all 2 weeks of his paternity leave. (Long story but, regardless of when I had the baby, Quinn was going to have to be back to work to start a new position on the 24th). So anyway, it was nice to have him around helping with Cooper and let me rest. We also took a long family walk later in the day. It did NOTHING to regulate my contractions. I figured that it was just going to go on like this for another day or 2. I wasn’t discouraged though because, for the first time, I really felt like progress toward labor was being made and I wasn’t going to go over due.

At around 4:30pm Kimberly texted to check in. I told her it was more of the same and that I’d let her know if anything changed. She said that a lot of times labor really kicks in in the middle of the night so she was prepared for that. She’d keep her phone on and her car was packed and ready to go. She called around 8 to check in again. I told her that I had nothing to report but I was heading to bed soon to get some rest in case things started in the middle of the night. Once Cooper was put down for the night, around 8:30pm, Quinn and I decided to go to bed.  As we were laying there scrolling through the Netflix, trying to find something to watch, I had a hard contraction. At its peak, I heard a POP and felt an intense pain that can only be described as being kicked in the cervix during a contraction. It was horrendous and I was scared. I had no idea what just happened to me. After I got over the initial shock, I took a couple of deep breaths and realized that the sharp pain went away when the contraction subsided. This eased my fears a bit because I knew then that it wasn’t a uterine rupture. However, I still had no idea what had happened. I yelled for Quinn to Google what the help just happened to me. While he was doing that, I looked at my clock- it was just about 9pm. Google told us that it was most likely my water breaking. I didn’t notice any leaking and there definitely wasn’t a big gush, so I wasn’t sure what to think. I called Kimberly.

I explained what had happened and she told me to lay on my side, then get up and see if I noticed any leaking. While I was laying on my side I had a contraction. She listened as I breathed through it and said that they weren’t yet a minute long so I still had some time. When I got up I did leak a little. It was official, my water broke. No turning back now, labor was here! I told Kimberly that we were ok for now but we’d call her when we needed her.

I knew then that I wasn’t going to go back to sleep and my contractions weren’t going stop coming at this point, so I decided to take a bath. While I was in the bath my contractions finally became consistent! Quinn began to time them and they were 4 min apart and about a minute long. At this point I was doing great. I used my hypobirthing techniques to breathe through them. I found myself breathing in visualizing filling my uterus then, as I exhaled, I visualized pushing Lincoln down and exhaling the pain. It was working amazingly well. I didn’t feel like it was anything I couldn’t handle. I just found myself wishing that I was in the birthing tub instead of my bath tub. Around 9:30, I had Quinn call Kimberly. My contractions were only 2 min apart at this point and they were getting longer. I had decided to stop timing them because I knew I was in labor and my contractions were coming, who cared about anything else? Kimberly hopped in her car and headed our way.

From this point on, things are a bit fuzzy. My contractions seemed to be right on top of each other. I was still breathing and working through them but I wasn’t getting any break. Kimberly showed up at some point. I found out later that Quinn answered the door and told Kimberly I was laboring in the bath tub and making grunting noises. She was pretty surprised to hear that. She came in, listed to the baby through a contraction, listened to me through a contraction, and broke me some bad news. There was going to be no time to set up the birth tub. Things were moving VERY fast. I breathed through a couple more contractions in the tub but I was losing my comfort. I decided to try to switch positions and something told me to be on my hands and knees. Once I switched positions, my labor completely changed. My contractions got harder to breathe through and I lost focus. I recall Kimberly telling me some noises to make while I was having them. Something like a low tone “ughhhhhh” or at least that’s what I did anyway. Once I started laboring on my hands and knees, I told Kimberly that I thought it was time to go to the hospital. My exact words were, “If we don’t leave now, I don’t think I’ll want to go.” Turns out, as we were getting ready to go I stopped wanting to go.

Quinn called my sister come over and watch Cooper and called the midwives to let them know we were on our way. On our way was a bit of an overstatement. Getting me out of the tub, dressed, and into the car was proving to be a challenge. Every single contraction I had (and they were around 30 sec apart) sent me back down to my hands and knees. Standing up during one was not an option. At one point, I yelled out, “I really need a break!” And that’s exactly how I felt. I was happy my labor was going fast because that meant that this awful transition portion would be over with soon and I’d have my break before pushing. I knew I was going to need that to gather the strength to push.

So I made it out of the tub and onto my bedroom floor when my sister showed up. She describes seeing my on the floor, naked, having one, continuous, contraction. She thought there was no way we were going to make it to the hospital. And, even if we were, she thought the idea of getting me into a car was ludicrous. Meanwhile, everyone else is scrambling around trying to find me pants and shoes. The pants I wanted to wear were in the wash because, silly us, we thought we had time. I thought the idea of pants and shoes made no sense. I certainly didn’t care if I was naked and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. It’s funny how modesty just goes out the window while in the throws of labor.

Finally pants were located along with soft, leopard print, slippers for my feet. Getting me out of the house was another story. Since I fell to my hands and knees with every contraction, we weren’t going anywhere quickly. Quinn finally helped me out the door but I proceeded to have a contraction right in the driveway. Once again, on my hands and knees. Quinn tried to help me up but me saying “no” and staying on the ground was my way of explaining to him that this was what my body wanted to do and I was going to let it. Fighting it just hurt worse.

The car ride was a nightmare as expected but thankfully we didn’t have far to go. Kimberly sat in the back with me. I was on all fours (surprise, surprise) and she was putting counter pressure on my back. She swears I only had 2 contractions in the car, I swear it hurt the whole way.

Once we got to the hospital they brought out a wheelchair for me. I looked at it like, “What am I supposed to do with this? I can’t sit.” Instead I used it as a walker and headed into triage. I had to go in through the Emergency room so I’m pretty sure I was quite a sight. I was in a fog of contractions trying my best to answer the nurse’s questions. Thankfully, he let me off easy and didn’t even wait for L&D to come down to collect me. He brought me up himself. But again, I was faced with a wheelchair I couldn’t use. The problem this time was that L&D was a long walk so that wasn’t an option either. The triage nurse told me to get on the wheelchair however I could. So that’s what I did…Image

Imageattractive right? Well it got me where I needed to go.

Once I got to my labor and delivery room Belinda’s sweet voice was there to meet me. I smiled feeling my grandmothers presence in her sweet British accent. Then I had another contraction and immediately forgot anything zen. I got up on my delivery bed, they de-pants me, and Belinda checked my progress. 10cm +2. At this point, that was good and bad news to me. Good for obvious reason, bad because I had decided that I ABSOLUTELY wanted an epidural right that minute! Anytime I could catch my breath I said I needed a break. Belinda told me to try pushing. I said, “No way!” It hurt WAY too much. I said, “I want something for the pain. I just need a break. I can do this if I just have a break.” They said, “No.” I came back with, “I know we never discussed this but I’m dead serious now. I’m not fucking around. Give me something, anything, so I can have a break!” Kimberly responded by telling me that I was going to meet my baby soon. I told her I didn’t care about that. Belinda responded to that by telling me to try to push again. I wanted to kill her. I hadn’t expected to feel this way. First, I thought I would be happy to push, not dreading it. I had always heard that it felt good to push. Lies. All lies. Second, I thought that, because I wasn’t getting any time between contractions, I wasn’t having enough time to get my point across. It wasn’t so much that I thought I couldn’t do it but being on my hands and knees all that time was taking its toll on me. I was exhausted and there really was no break in my contractions. My mother-in-law said it best when I was telling her about it the next day. She said, “Oh, I remember that. You just needed a minute to get your shit together.” EXACTLY! But, I wasn’t going to get it. At that point I would have allowed someone to knock me over the head with a frying pan for some rest but apparently that was off the table as well. After literally banging my fist on my pillow and fighting furiously through two contractions, I realized something. This was the wall. I had read about it in many birth stories during my prep but I never fully understood it until then. There was no way out of this situation then giving in to it. Giving in to the pain, the fear, the exhaustion.

So I started to push and I hated every second of it. With my first push I screamed, “Oh fuck!” and Belinda came back with, “Oh fuck is right!” I laughed even then.ImageImage

I pushed a few more times, each with an expletive or two. Belinda, Kimberly, and Quinn kept telling me that I was doing great. I felt like an animal and I really just wanted it to be over with as soon as possible. With one push Belinda said, “That’s great Natalie you’re almost there.” I asked her, “How close am I?” She said, “He’ll be here soon.” I informed her, “I’m going to need an ETA.” She must have thought I was insane. But she humored me and said, “I don’t know… 15 minutes.” I took that to mean an hour and tried to wrap my mind around pushing for the next hour. I decided that I could do it and proceeded to go back to work. 2 contractions later, he was out.Image

Lincoln Alexander Johnson came into this world, caught by the hands of his father, at 11:33pm on January 10, 2013. He was immediately put on my chest and the first person he looked at was me.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage


I still can’t believe it sometimes. I had my VBAC and, aside from laboring in the tub, it happened just like I wanted it to. More quickly than I expected, but perfect none the less. It’s true what they say about natural birth too, it makes you feel like you can accomplish anything because nothing will ever be that hard again. I have truly redefined what I’m capable of.

Also, as a side note, I want to be clear that I wouldn’t change anything about my birth. After we came home from the hospital I found myself reading something online about labor positions. Apparently hands and knees is the body’s way of turning a posterior baby. Knowing that solidified everything for me and validated every decision I made. I listened to my body and did exactly what it told me to. I trusted my instincts and they didn’t disappoint. Had I gone to the hospital earlier, I would have asked for the epidural earlier which would have forced me to push lying down. There’s no way to be sure but, I believe that laboring and pushing on all fours kept Lincoln in the right position and was the reason I was able to have my VABC. 



PREGNANT! Time to start planning…

In May of 2012, after one month of trying, I was pregnant again!


Although I always knew I was going to VBAC the second baby but mentally preparing for it and actually planning it were 2 entirely different things.

The mantra of my entire pregnancy became, “Do EVERYTHING differently.”(This eventually became my labor mantra as well)

First thing was first, finding a VBAC-friendly provider. In the spirit of doing things differently, and knowing that I was going to try to go all natural, I decided to look into midwives and what hospitals they had privileges with. (Side note: The idea of homebirth was something I tossed around but never seriously considered. For peace of mind I wanted to be in the hospital in the rare event something went wrong or if I ended up needing an emergency c-section again.) The first midwife I met with was Janice at Valley Women For Women.  I was immediately sold. We discussed my desire to VBAC at the very first appointment. Not only was the practice 100% supportive, Janice herself took the time to sit down with me and listen to my entire birth story of Cooper. She could dang near guarantee me that nothing like that would ever happen to me again. There were 3 stipulations to my VBAC with Women For Women

1.  I had to meet with an OB at 30wks so she could scare me and I could sign an informed consent form.

2. I had to agree to be continuously monitored throughout labor.     

 3. I had to agree to give IV access upon being admitted to the hospital.                                                             

I wasn’t psyched about any of this but I thought it was a small price to pay and concessions I was willing to make.


Once I was out of my first trimester I did 2 things. I joined ICAN of Phoenix and I hired a doula. I can honestly say, of all my birthing decisions, those were my 2 best! The ICAN group was amazing. They have a facebook page that is like a 24/7 support group and full of positive stories. Also they have meetings once a month. Because for most of my pregnancy my husband was working nights, I didn’t get to attend as many meetings as I would have liked but, thanks to the facebook page, those girls felt like family.

Hiring a doula was something I hadn’t really thought about until I joined the ICAN group. Everyone there was saying that their doula was the best thing that ever happened to them. I didn’t understand at first but I decided to take their advice because I knew it couldn’t hurt and the statistics don’t lie. I was more likely to have an intervention-free birth, and more likely to have a successful VBAC if I hired a doula. I was sold. The trick was finding one. I asked for recommendations from the ICAN ladies and from my midwives. I cross-referenced the 2 lists and started there. All of the doulas I met with, I loved. Everyone said I had to choose the one I best “meshed” with but I felt like I meshed with all of them and I had an impossible decision on my hands. Then, along came Kimberly. She was perfect. Not only did I feel like we “meshed” just fine, she brought things to the table the other doulas didn’t. She was a member of ICAN herself who VBAC’d 3 of her 4 children. She works almost exclusively with VBAC clients. And finally, she’s a nurse which gave her the ability to check my progress, listen to heart tones, and know, without a doubt, if something was going wrong. I knew she was the one.

Oh, I almost forgot that I also joined Family Circle in the 2nd trimester. The midwives offer this as a form of prenatal care. Basically, you have your individual appointment but also meet the midwives as a group with other parents expecting around the same time you are. The appointments last about 2 hours, are at night, and cover a variety of topics. This is awesome for first time parents and I really with Quinn and I could have done something like this the first time around. For us, the best thing about this care was that we got to know the midwives really well.

By the end of my pregnancy I felt like I had all of my ducks in a row. Kimberly introduced me to hypnobirthing, which I initially took with a “Thanks” and an eye roll. But, I had promised myself I would be open-minded for my whole pregnancy and try anything and everything. So I jumped into the hypnobirthing feet first. I was convinced the whole thing was a crock until I used the techniques to help me through a pretty horrendous leg cramp one night. From the midwives to the doula and now the hypnobirthing, I was totally becoming a hippie.

I had also picked out my favorite midwife at this point and marked the days on my calendar that she was on-call. I knew that I had no control over when this baby would decide to make an appearance but I knew those were the days I was going to try harder to get him out! Belinda was special to me from the get-go because she’s British. My grandmother, who raised me, was also from the UK but sadly passed away quite a few years ago. Every time I heard Belinda’s voice, it made me feel at home and like my guardian angel was there with me. On top that, Belinda stood out on her own for her amazing sense of humor. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get through natural labor without laughing and cracking jokes. I felt like I needed her energy to be successful.

After the countless prenatal appointments, doula meetings, ICAN meetings, hypnobirthing practice sessions, birth story reading, and video watching there was eventually nothing left to do but wait. I am REALLY BAD at waiting. 

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Making the decision to VBAC

The first time I heard the term VBAC I was about 32 weeks pregnant. My husband and I were in the birthing class given by the hospital. The nurse was explaining why the c-section rate at the hospital was so high. One of the reasons she gave was that the hospital banned VBACs. At the time, it sounded reasonable and I pretty much ignored her. Then of course, I had my c-section and the term VBAC took on a whole new meaning.

You would think after my horrible c-section experience, I would have been totally behind a VBAC from the beginning but to tell you the truth, it was the opposite. I liked the idea of being able to schedule my next c-section. I didn’t have to worry about a trial of labor ending in an emergency c-section again. I could be totally anesthetized the whole time. And, the baby would likely be healthy and able to stay in our room with us. It sounded perfect to me. But, after I got home from the hospital with Cooper, I started to wonder: what was SO dangerous about this “VBAC” that the hospital BANNED it? Well, thanks to Google, I found out the answer to that pretty quickly; nothing.

It took me actually having a horrible birth experience to finally become educated in birth. Instead of doing my own research and making my own decision about my own body, I deferred to the expertise of others. It never even occurred to me that the only “expert” of me was me. Like so many others, I saw pregnancy and birth as something that needed to be handled and closely monitored by Doctors with lots of degrees. I had no faith in myself or my body to just know what to do and do it properly. Funnily enough, before I had Cooper, I didn’t even think this was a problem.

Thanks to Google and amazing VBAC-ing mamas, the first things that come up when you search the term “VBAC” are success stories and wonderful, encouraging, statistics. From the moment I started reading about VBACs I was a junkie. I looked up all the info I could. When I felt I had literally reached the end of the internet, I started trying to figure out how I could go about having my VBAC while the hospital I was closest to banned them. (Keep in mind, I probably wasn’t even 1 month post partum so I had some time to figure this out!) I figured that with my next kid I would see the midwives in Flagstaff for my prenatal care and then, about a month before my due date, I would come down to Phoenix, stay with my sister, and have my baby at a VBAC friendly hospital. In such a short time, this is how invested I was… and here’s why:

The stories I read about these amazing women made me realize that the system had failed me. And, that I had failed me. Though a repeat c-section always sounded easier to me, I knew that only one thing would take away the emotional wounds that my first birth left me with. My life changed when I found ICAN (The International Cesarean Awareness Network). I cried (a lot) the first time I heard someone express something that I had been feeling all along but was to afraid to ever voice out loud; “A healthy baby isn’t all that matters.” Sure we got to take Cooper home, and he was a perfectly healthy, normal, infant after leaving the hospital. But my lack of trust in my instincts during the birthing process flowed into a lack of trust in my parenting. It interfered with our bonding. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could have done it. I could have birthed him if I had just had the right circumstances.

My next “ah-ha” moment came a few months later when I found The Business of Being Born on Netflix. I cried so much through it the first time that I had to watch it again because I was sure that I had missed ½ of it. Until I saw this movie, I thought the only bad decisions during my labor had been mine. Sure I had gone to the hospital before I was really ready to be there; but no one told me that when I got there I was on the hospital’s clock. Sure I got my epidural before I needed one; but I was misinformed about when they were available to me. My Dr. broke my water just to speed me along (maybe he wanted to be home for dinner). This was not OK. My Dr. ordered pitocin because I was at 9cm for over an hour. This is also not OK. All of these things culminated in me not being able to move during my labor, use the tub for pain relief, or push in different positions. Without being able to listen to my body, I was unable to turn Cooper from a posterior position. The c-section was not all my fault. I trusted the medical staff to work in mine and my son’s best interest, instead they followed protocol. Protocol continues because it works a lot of the time. But, the c-section rate is on the rise because it also doesn’t work a lot of the time. Protocol doesn’t work for me.  

After seeing this movie and really understanding what had happened to me when I had Cooper, I realized that for my VBAC to be successful, I’d have to do it all natural. This was a lot for me to wrap my mind around since I had really never considered it before. Thankfully, I didn’t get pregnant again until 3 years later so I had a lot of time to come to terms with my decision. In those 3 years, I moved down to Phoenix so I had a lot more VBAC options. I read everything I could get my hands on and I watched birth story after birth story. I did everything I could to prepare my mind. 

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Cooper Afterwards

“At least the baby is healthy.” This was my mantra as the Dr was sewing me back together. In the birthing class that the hospital offered, they had you make a list of what was most important in your birth. “Healthy baby” couldn’t move from the top spot but everything else was negotiable. I didn’t get one thing on my list so I clung to “healthy baby” for dear life.

While in recovery I was exhausted, I had the chills, and the shakes, and I was so drugged that I barely understood what was going on. Quinn kept trying to hand me Cooper but I wasn’t connecting. I just wanted to rest. It was hard to reconcile that the baby I was looking at was the same baby that was just inside me. I thought that I would feel better if I was just able to get a little sleep.


When Cooper came out, he had a fever. It was possible that his fever was just an extension of mine or from the prolonged labor. Or, it was also possible that he had an infection. Because the pediatricians like to air on the side of caution, they decided to give him IV antibiotics for 48 hours.  This meant that when we were finally able to leave recovery, Cooper was headed to the NICU. So much for my healthy baby. 😦

At the Flagstaff Medical Center where I gave birth the NICU ( or as they like to call it, the “special care unit”) is in the basement but the maternity ward is on the 3rd floor. No sooner did I get to my room than the NICU called to tell me Cooper was hungry. Believe it or not, I stood immediately out of bed and got right back in my wheelchair so they could take me downstairs. The nurses were pretty impressed with my willingness to bounce right up after the surgery. I didn’t really know that I had any other options.

The first time I saw Cooper in the NICU I was pretty scared of him. He had oxygen and tubes coming out of every which way. I was afraid to hold him but the nurses encouraged me to try to breastfeed. I was excited at first because I thought that our delayed bonding was finally going to start. And, to be honest, it did… a little bit. I enjoyed the closeness and getting to know my baby. But it broke my heart a little every time I had to put him back down in the isolate and go back to my room. Because of this I ended up staying long after he finished feeding and just looking at him for a long time. This eventually backfired on me.  By the time I would get back up to my room Cooper would be ready to eat again so I’d head back downstairs. I did this for a full 2 days. For our situation there was no such thing as sleeping when the baby slept. Exhaustion hit me hard.




Quinn finally convinced me that I should let Cooper have a bottle so he could feed him while I got some sleep. I can’t look back and say this was a bad decision because I did need the sleep but breastfeeding got ruined pretty quickly. I did try to initiate it again when we got home a few times but it was harder than I expected. Cooper had no interest in the breast again after the bottles at the hospital. I’m sure it didn’t help that it took 5 days for my milk to come in and he had been used to eating hardily. Colostrum was not going to cut it. I cut myself some slack on the breastfeeding and, knowing what I know now, I don’t think that I would have stuck with it even if I had put forth more effort. So many things went not as planned at the time, that I was grateful for all the help I got from Quinn.

Cooper blog 7Cooper blog 8

Postpartum time with Cooper was, like everything else, harder than I thought it was going to be. I wouldn’t say that I was depressed but I was surely overwhelmed. I don’t know if this stemmed from my birth experience or if it was just a result of being young and having my first child but, I didn’t trust my instincts at all. I felt disconnected from Cooper. I had a hard time figuring out what was going to make him happy. I even got the impression that he didn’t like me very much. After carrying him around for 9 months, I thought I had a good handle on who he would be when he was born. But, he wasn’t anything like I thought and I was not at all prepared to deal with that. I was also sure that every obnoxious phase he went through was going to last forever. I literally remember thinking one night as I was pacing, running water, and patting his butt simultaneously to get him to sleep that I would still be doing this same thing when he was a teenager. I might have been out of my mind with sleep deprivation.

It took me a long time to become a confident mother. I had to bond with Cooper over time. I had to learn from him and stop being scared of him before he started responding to me positively. The love I have for Cooper is no less deep than any other mother/child love. I think it may have just taken a while for me to grow into it.

For those that are reading this and finding it familiar territory, it is important to note that by the time Cooper was 6 months old, we had things pretty well figured out. 🙂


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The Beginning: The Birth Story of Cooper Allen Johnson

In hindsight I can see how naive I was when I was pregnant with my first son. Everything I knew about birth I learned from A Baby Story on TLC. I never had any intention of having an intervention free birth. I assumed I would be induced (because that’s how everyone I knew had babies) and I assumed I would get an epidural at some point. Then, I assumed I’d push my perfectly happy, healthy, baby, out of my vagina. Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

No need for the induction- although I pretty much begged my Dr for one at my 38 wk appointment. After a long walk on the evening of Thursday, April 23, 2009, I went into labor naturally. I was 38wks 5 days.

I labored at home until about 4am. At this point, I was having “show” and my contractions were consistent but, they were not yet painful. Unconvinced I was actually “in-labor” my husband, Quinn, and I decided to go to the hospital to get checked. I figured worst case scenario they’d send me home. Best case scenario, they’d admit me and I’d labor at the hospital just as I had been laboring at home. (This was my first of many bad decisions)

When we arrived at the hospital they checked me. I was 4cm and 100% effaced. In labor enough to stay (Woo hoo!)  The plan was to labor in the birth tub until I was ready for my epidural but it didn’t end up working out that way. Though I initially declined the epidural when they offered it to me as they were admitting m, the nurse made it perfectly clear that if I wanted one at all I should get it while I was between 4 and 5cm. So, I caved. I didn’t want to miss my chance at getting one and also we had a lot of family making the drive up to see us so I thought the least I could do was be pleasant while they were there. (This was likely my second bad decision)

Once I was in my L & D room, they hooked me up to IV fluids to prep me for my epidural. A little bit later my Dr came in. He said, “Looks like we’re going to have a baby today.” Then he checked me and said, “Ok, I’m gonna go ahead and break your water now.” Without so much as an “Ok” from me (not that I would have argued anyway. This is how I thought things were supposed to go, remember?) he broke my water. After that, he said, “We should have a baby by 2:30!” Then he left. I didn’t see him again until 2:00.

Not much happened between this time and 2:00. A couple things to note though; 1. Once he broke my water, my contractions got intense.  2. When it was time for my epidural it took a long time to be effective. 3. Because I got the epidural I couldn’t use the birthing tub and that really pissed me off.  It was the one thing about labor I was looking forward to, besides the outcome of course.

Anyway, back to the story. At around 2pm the nurse came in to check me and called me 10cm. Then they got my Dr to come in and confirm. He called me a 9 and was concerned with how long I had been at 9. So, he ordered pitocin to speed me along. I hadn’t gotten any more epidural, nor did I want any, because I wanted to be able to feel when it was time to push. A little while later the Dr. checked me and I had made it to 10. However, now he had some new bad news for me. The baby was posterior (also known as sunny-side-up).

At 3:30 I started pushing. While I pushed, my Dr tried to turn the baby. If you have never had the “pleasure” of experiencing this, it involves the Dr. sticking what feels like his entire arm up my vagina while his other hand is on my belly pushing and pulling in ways that cannot possibly be comfortable to the baby. After all that it was no wonder he didn’t want to come out! And, low and behold, it didn’t work.  My Dr. told me to push with the nurse for each contraction and he would be back later. About a ½ hour later he returned and wasn’t impressed with my progress. So, he has me push while he tries to turn the baby again. No such luck.

The pushing continued for the next 2 ½ hours with little to no progress. My Dr. used the vacuum 3 different times also, with no luck. By this time I was getting emotionally and physically exhausted. This wasn’t turning out at all like I had planned. My Dr. was unimpressed with my pushing skills, which made me feel bad about myself and I began to cry. There’s something about not being capable of doing something that every other woman in your family had been able to do effortlessly, to really screw with your psyche. I remember feeling totally useless and incapable.

I wasn’t surprised when my Dr. suggested a c-section after 3 hours of pushing, turning, and vacuuming. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was my Dr’s urgency for the c-section. Apparently we had been pushing to the point of problems. I began to spike a fever that wouldn’t stop rising and the baby’s heart rate was no longer handling contractions well. So, once the decision was made, things moved to the operating room VERY quickly.

My Dr. unplugged me and wheeled me into the operating room himself. While they got me set up I was alone and very scared. Before Quinn was allowed in my anesthesiologist (the same one who gave me my epidural) was the only one in the operating room talking to me. While she gave me medication, she held my hand and clamed me down. Thank God for this woman. Quinn was finally allowed in and he sat to my left with the anesthesiologist to my right. All of a sudden I feel a pinch in my abdomen. The following went something like this:

Me: Oww

DR: You can feel that?

—1 minute passes—


Me: Oww

Anesthesiologist: It takes her a little while for her body to respond to the pain meds.

DR: How long?

Anesthesiologist: About 10 min

DR: Well we don’t have 10 min.

ME: What does that mean?!

DR: (to the nurse) Get me some lidocaine. I’ll just use a local.

Apparently my Dr. thought it would be a good idea to numb my outer skin with a local anesthetic and hope that by the time he started cutting deeper, I’d be numb. That didn’t exactly work out either. I didn’t feel the initial cut but once he started cutting through the muscle, I could feel everything. I screamed through most of my c-section. It was, to date, the most horrible experience of my life. The epidural kicked in about ½ way through my surgery and promptly made me vomit.

Cooper Allen Johnson arrived at 6:58pm. He was 7lbs 11oz and 20in long. Once Cooper was out, they held him up for a split second and took him away. I made Quinn go with him to make sure he was ok. Thankfully the anesthesiologist and student nurse stayed with me. The student nurse even went out to get a camera to sneak a picture of the baby to show me. I was thankful that she did that but too out of it to really care. I listened to Cooper cry thinking the worst was over. 


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