‘I felt a POP down you know where. ‘No! This can’t be!’ Tears streaming, I peeked between my legs. ‘What do we do now?’ I wanted a ‘perfect’ pregnancy. I now know I was totally oblivious.’

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“I was 23 years old and had just purchased my first pregnancy test. My husband, Corey, waited with anxious anticipation as I circled around the pee strip that would tell us our truth. Could we possibly be expecting our first child?

Then, in the blink of an eye, there it was.

POSITIVE!

This truly was the moment we had been waiting on for 6 months!

I think I was probably a typical first-time expectant mom. I read What to Expect While You’re Expecting, talked to other moms, heard a host of horror stories (aka labor accounts), worked out three times a week, watched what I ate and, of course, made sure I never forgot to take my prenatal. I was determined to have the ‘perfect’ pregnancy.

However, I now know I was totally oblivious. I didn’t realize being in shape and healthy were only part of the equation for bringing a baby earthside peacefully. I would soon find out the terrible side effects of not having a plan for labor and delivery. Oh, I thought I had a plan. I even wrote one out, but I never shared it with anyone.

It was Good Friday and we attended church that evening. After the service, I stood and walked over to my husband where he was chatting with a friend. Just as I reached his side, I felt a ‘POP’ down you know where. ‘No! This can’t be my water breaking!’ I told myself. I waddled to the church bathroom as gushes of warm liquid ran down my legs. I sat on the toilet, peeked between my legs and, ‘Whoa!’ It sure enough was not urine! I waddled back to my husband, touched his arm with an extra urgent tap, gave him my best crazy-eyed, let’s-get-going look. As we walked out the door, I shared with him what had happened. His response was, ‘What do we do now?’ That was a good question! We hadn’t prepared for this scenario. For crying out loud, we hadn’t prepared anything but our ‘go’ bag!

We drove home, excited for what was to come. When we called the nurse’s line, we were encouraged to check in at the hospital right away. I suppose I may have had one contraction on the way to the hospital. Once there, I was hooked up to the monitors and a nurse checked my cervix. I was at 3 cm. ‘Ok,’ I thought, ‘That’s fine. I’m sure it will go fast.’

Spoiler alert. It didn’t.

We walked and walked and walked. No change. Pitocin drip was started and the contractions intensified. I now couldn’t breathe through the pain. This was definitely not going as practiced in the prenatal class. I started losing control. I begged for an epidural. After 14 hours, I was at 5 cm and the epidural was administered, bringing relief quickly. I remember being happy at the prospect of getting some sleep after being up all night. I also felt hungry but was not allowed to eat. I recall thinking that if I could just fall asleep for a while, I’d wake up ready to push.

I did fall asleep, but just 2 hours later woke to 5 nurses in the room turning me over to my left side and administering oxygen to me. I was trying to figure out what was happening and glanced over at the heart monitor. Being a registered nurse, I knew it wasn’t good to see my baby’s heartbeat in the 20s. My doctor came in and, sitting at the foot of my bed, said, ‘We are going to put in an internal heart monitor. We want to be sure we pick up an accurate heartbeat. This can be normal, but if it happens again we will have to go to the OR and do a c-section.’

‘NO!’ I cried. ‘I don’t want a c-section! Please! I don’t want a c-section!’

I lost it. My personal, quiet, even one could say secret, birth plan was falling apart. My perfect pregnancy ended in a whirlwind of imperfect circumstances. Soon the heartbeat crashed again, and I was rushed to the operating room, crying all the way. I was put on the table, strapped down, tears streaming down my face and my baby was cut out of me. I crawled deep inside my body. I retreated. My little girl weighed in at 5lb. 10oz and 20 inches long. It was 45 minutes before I was allowed to hold her. And when I finally did, I felt nothing. ‘This isn’t what it’s supposed to be like,’ I plead with God and self.

Courtesy of Aly McClain

At my 2-week appointment, I inquired as to what necessitated my c-section.

Doc stepped out of the room to look at my chart. When she returned, she said, ‘We can usually only tell during a c-section, but your pelvis is small and so you won’t be able to give birth vaginally.’ The news broke me.

It took me 3 weeks to even say the words, ‘I love you’ to my baby girl. I felt like I needed to convince myself she was actually mine. I spent the next 12 months suffering from extreme postpartum depression and anxiety, including flashbacks of the OR, the heart monitor, the nurses’ faces. I would feel my heart pounding, chest tighten, and often needed to pull over my car or call someone to talk me through the panic attacks.

Thankfully, I saw a counselor and found this to be the start of healing.

When we found out we were pregnant again, we had just purchased our first home. Within a short time, we discovered a family of racoons living in our attic and causing a considerable mess and unexpected expense. The entire family became ill, and I miscarried the baby.

About 3 months later, I got another positive pregnancy test. I was nervous but excited for this new adventure, for I knew this time I would be fully in charge of the decision making during pregnancy and delivery. This time, I chose a completely different route. I was going to have a homebirth. In Nebraska, having a Certified Nurse Midwife attend a homebirth is illegal. Thankfully, there are women who are willing to go against a broken system and offer options to mothers who would desire to birth their baby in the comfort of their own home. I found someone who believed in my body and my ability to have a vaginal birth following a c-section (VBAC). I worked every day to change my mindset. I did emotional release work, read books, spoke to other VBAC moms. They all had similar stories. Most importantly, I surrounded myself with an amazing support team!

My plans were kept quiet. Other than the people I asked to attend the birth, very few knew of my plan. I had to be selective on who I spoke to. I knew my emotions and mind were fragile. I protected myself from all negativity including traumatic birth stories. I would walk away or ‘delete’ the story in my head and replace it with positive affirmations.

At 18 weeks, I had an anatomy scan revealing a partial previa. I cried. This could ruin my plans!

Courtesy of Aly McClain

Why was my body turning against me again?! I called my midwife and through sobs I told her what the scan showed. I will remember this conversation for the rest of my life. I could feel her calm through the phone. She said, ‘Aly, I don’t operate out of fear.’ She told me that everything will work the way it was supposed to. That I was in control of my decisions and no matter what happened it would be a healing experience. She prayed for me and I felt peace.

I decided to wait on the follow-up ultrasound until 34 weeks. It was then that I found out the previa had moved 11mm away from my cervix! Not enough for conventional doctors to approve a vaginal delivery, but my research did make me comfortable attempting it, knowing that if at any time medical intervention was needed, I would transfer.

At 41 weeks and 3 days, I went into labor. I had a bloody show at 4am and called my midwife. She checked on the baby, saying all was good. I was so scared seeing the blood.  My midwife assured me that all was going to be okay. The baby was fine and everything was happening like it should.

It wasn’t until 4pm that things started to pick up. The baby was posterior, so my midwife did a diaphragmatic release. Once the baby turned, the contractions started to come regularly. This was happening! I consented to being checked again but asked not to be told how far I was. I was at 5cm! I’m so glad she didn’t tell me that or I would have felt defeated! Instead, I decided to choose joy. I welcomed each contraction as a friend helping to bring my baby to me. I would close my eyes, let it rush over me, and just breath. It was beautiful and intense and just how it should be. The room was quiet. Everyone whispered. There were lights and affirmations posted around the room. I was in a pool full of warm water. It was perfect. Just as I had imagined.

Courtesy of Aly McClain

My husband read scripture over me as I listened to my hypnobirthing soundtracks and I leaned into each sensation. At one point during the labor I looked up and said, ‘This is fun!’ I wasn’t joking! The waves were crashing over me. I felt perfectly in control, but out of control at the same time. My body was working. My body was capable.

I pushed for 2.5 hours. No one was yelling at me to push harder. No one was counting to 10. They just let me do my thing. At one point, my midwife asked me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. She was there! I was doing it! My pushes became stronger! ‘I am doing this!’ Her head appeared and with the next push so did her shoulders! Born a whole 6lb 12oz!

Courtesy of Aly McClain

‘I did it!’ I sobbed. ‘I did it! She’s here! I did it!’ I was in a state of complete bliss! I looked down and announced, ‘She’s a girl! A girl!’ I felt triumphant! My body wasn’t a lemon. It worked perfectly. Aiyla was the name given to me in a dream during my pregnancy and I felt it a confirmation from the Lord. This was what needed to happen and my Aiyla girl was with me, safe. The flood of hormones completed our earthly bond. I told her I loved her as I held her in the pool. This is what birth should be. The way it was meant to be.

Eight months later, I felt inspired to create an online course for mothers who want to be in control of their decision making during labor. I want them to share their birth plan with those who need to know and are willing to come alongside them.

Courtesy of Aly McClain

No matter when, where, or how, if a mom decides to birth she deserves to make those decisions!”

Courtesy of Aly McClain
Courtesy of Aly McClain

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Aly McClain of Ohama, Nebraska. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and her website here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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