The beautiful Rachel O'Dell and Ezra Levi (11 months).
Rachel and her husband had only been married for 3 days when she learned she was pregnant. There was some tension between their families surrounding their relationship so they decided to go on their honeymoon and tell their families afterwards. Rachel says that when she told her mother she wasn't unsupportive but did worry that were young and hadn't finished college first.
Rachel's mom had seven children, all born at home and breastfed, so she was no stranger to natural birth and thought she'd go that route herself. Her husband comes from a very different back ground, however, so they decided to give birth in hospital and ultimately found a hospital based midwife who was supportive. Rachel also hired a doula to support her through the process.
Just a couple days past her due date, Rachel's water broke in the evening as the start to labor. She knew she wanted to stay at home for as long as possible and her doula told her to try to get some sleep. She was able to rest for a few hours and then woke up to labor in the shower and on her birthing ball. Around midnight she woke her husband to help support her and her doula joined them in the morning. Rachel was 5cms when she arrived in hospital which felt like a great accomplishment. The first 30 minutes were spent trying to find Ezra's heartbeat and she then labored in bed and in the shower. Rachel's next check revealed she was still at 5cms, however.
Rachel had been in a bad car accident with her family about 8 years prior and had two slightly herniated disks in her back as a result. She had been told that she couldn't get an epidural because of this but her midwife disagreed. They decided to call in the anesthesiologist for a consult who decided there wasn't any reason she couldn't have an epidural. It took three tries to get the epidural into her spine but it didn't do it's job. The medication couldn't get through her slipped disks and pooled in her bottom. It wasn't numbing her abdomen or helping her through contractions so they ended up pulling it all together.
She continued to labor and was growing increasingly exhausted as she entered her second day. They decided to allow her to labor in the birthing pool and once they finally got it all filled up she was able to relax and zone out. Her husband and doula were able to rest and she felt at peace. Then an intense contraction hit and Rachel says she doesn't know how to describe it other than a switch flipped and she knew she was done. Her midwife checked her and she was 9.5 cms so she told her she could go ahead and push but after about 30 minutes of pushing Rachel refused to go any further. She didn't want to do it anymore and requested a cesarean.
Rachel's midwife told her that she did not need a cesarean and it wasn't an emergency. They were concerned that because they weren't able to get a good epidural, they wouldn't be able to give her a spinal block. If they had to put her under, they cautioned, they would have a very finite amount of time before the drugs affected her baby and they'd likely have to resuscitate him. Rachel said that she didn't care what they had to do, she was done and wanted to have the cesarean. Thankfully they were able to get the spinal to work and things went well. They performed a gentle cesarean so Ezra was able to go right to her chest to nurse and his dad was able to stay with him for measurements.
The following morning, Rachel's midwife spoke with her about what had happened and let her know that she would not be a good candidate for a VBAC. She also asked if Rachel had ever suffered any sexual trauma as she thought that may have been a contributing factor in her shutting down. Her midwife encouraged her to seek counseling if so. Rachel recalled an incident with a boy when she was 13 where she says she got herself into a situation where she consented and then changed her mind but always felt that because she allowed herself to be in that position, she was responsible. Rachel has been seeing a Christian counselor and has found a great deal of healing from her birth in the process. She also credits prayer for getting her though so much.
Breastfeeding had been very important to Rachel but she struggled to keep up her supply enough to meet her sons demands. It wasn't until her mother came to visit and she realized she nursed for three of the four hours she was there that she made the decision to supplement. Ezra reacted poorly to cows milk formula so they purchased goats milk from a local farm and made their own formula until she discovered breastmilk donors who have so graciously provided for her son. Rachel's goal was to breastfeed for one year and she is thrilled that her son has continued to nurse and receive donated breastmilk to get him through to his first birthday.
Rachel has struggled with her body image throughout her life and says it wasn't until she met her husband that she started accepting herself. She doesn't want to pass similar concerns to her son and hopes to continue to cultivate that change within herself and her family. Rachel also hopes that sharing her story is the final piece of healing in her birth. She avoiding telling people she chose to have a cesarean because she felt guilty and wants to share and fully accept her truth.