Kimberly Van Der Beek's Blog: Sharing My Birth Stories
Welcome back to our blogger Kimberly Van Der Beek!
Born and raised in Washington, she married actor James Van Der Beek in August 2010 and is mother to their two children — daughter Olivia, 2, and son Joshua, 7 months.
In her latest blog, Van Der Beek opens up about her two very distinct deliveries.
The four of us – Courtesy Van Der Beek Family
Please allow me to tell you my two very different birth stories…
Two years ago, I drew up my birthing plan for my daughter, Olivia: Natural vaginal birth, no epidural, no Pitocin, no drugs.
My doula, Yvonne Novack, suggested I rename my neatly-laminated document “birthing requests.” I would soon find out why.
After a day of pre-labor, my contractions grew stronger and closer together. Yvonne came to the house, helped me breathe through contractions and encouraged me to embrace the pain, since that was what would soon bring my love into the world.
When my contractions found their stride and were consistently three minutes apart, we left for the hospital. Needless to say, I’ve had more comfortable car rides.
My shady lady – Courtesy Van Der Beek Family
We got to the hospital I had pre-registered at — yet still had to fill out more paperwork (has anyone else had to do this during labor?). By the time I finally got up to my room, I wasn’t even a centimeter dilated. I had closed up.
Perhaps it was the stress of the drive? Or maybe the paperwork had taken me out of my zone? I’ll never know.
I was told I should probably go back home and wait until labor started up again. That didn’t sit right with me, however, and thankfully James, Yvonne and my doctor all stood by my instinct to stay in the hospital.
Within two hours I was dilated to nine and having pushing contractions. I pushed — the kind of screaming, dramatic labor you see on TV — for almost two and a half hours … but remained stuck at nine centimeters. I was exhausted.
My doctor told me that my best shot at having a vaginal birth was to get an epidural and see if my muscles would relax enough to get Olivia into a better position for delivery.
Our silly girl this spring – Coliena Rentmeester
The minutes before the anesthesiologist arrived seemed like the longest of my life, but after a big needle stick, I was soon relaxed enough to actually take a nap.
I awoke to my doctor telling me it was time to push again. The epidural had slowed down the contractions, so I was given a little Pitocin to pick them back up. I had seen Ricki Lake‘s documentary The Business of Being Born and crossed my fingers that the Pitocin wouldn’t lead me to an emergency cesarean.
Thankfully, Olivia’s heart rate remained strong and after another two hours of pushing, many second winds and the help of a vacuum, Olivia was born on Sept. 25, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.
For Joshua, I chose the same doctor, the same doula Yvonne, and the same hospital. But this time, at 37 weeks, there was a difference: I discovered Joshua was breech.
My doctor and I discussed the various (and often successful) methods of getting a baby to flip. If none of those methods worked, she said she’d hook me up to an IV and physically turn the baby herself (external cephalic version — ECV).
Olivia and James – Courtesy Van Der Beek Family
If that didn’t work, she said I was looking at a caesarean. Now, while some people opt for a scheduled c-section, I wanted to reserve that method of delivery for an emergency — and this didn’t feel like one.
I brought up that my mother had given birth to my sister breech. My doctor said absolutely not. This was non-negotiable. She said the risk of his head getting caught in my pelvis was too high. As long as my baby was breech, I would not be allowed to try for a vaginal birth.
I left the office a little jarred, but more than that, determined to turn the baby.
I tried everything: burning moxa by my foot, lying inverted, sleeping in certain positions, acupuncture, massage, reiki — you name it, I gave it a shot.
After a few sessions with renowned baby-flipping chiropractor Dr. Elliot Berlin, Joshua was still breech, and it seemed unlikely that he was going to flip. He was nicely settled into my pelvis without much room to turn.
Father and new son – Coliena Rentmeester
Again, my mother’s intuition kicked in. Women have been giving birth to breech babies for quite a while, I thought. And while the caesarean has been a godsend in certain circumstances, the idea of getting cut open scared me much more than the idea of trying for something that had been going on since our existence on this planet.
Dr. Berlin suggested I meet with Dr. Stuart Fischbein, an angel in the birthing world, who’s delivered hundreds of breech babies and now only delivers at one’s home or a birth center.
I’d seriously considered a homebirth for Olivia, but had been talked out of it by close friends and family members who asked, “Why take the risk?”
Dr. Fischbein calmed any remnants of fear about birthing at home. He went over the facts about breech birth, how it’s a variation of normal — more common than my red hair — and how, if your baby is in a safe breech position (not all breech positions are created alike in regards to their safety), there is a very simple maneuver that keeps the head tucked in for a safe delivery.
He went through a seven-point checklist to see if Joshua and I were good candidates for a breech home delivery, and we met all the criteria. I went home, did my own research and prayed.
My loves – Courtesy Van Der Beek Family
With James’ full support, I made the call to Dr. Fischbein and asked him to be my doctor. I was at peace, and so happy to have this opportunity.
At 3 p.m. on Monday, March 12, I felt some water trickle down my leg. Dr. Fischbein came by to make sure it was indeed my amniotic fluid by doing a PH test.
I wasn’t having any contractions and continued my day normally. I ate a light dinner, gave Olivia a bath, put on some mascara for any impromptu newborn photo ops, and James moved my favorite art piece into our bedroom. Then we got some sleep.
At 5:00 a.m. I woke up with a really strong contraction, and within half an hour they became consistently two to three minutes apart. It was at this point that I politely informed James I would be getting an epidural next time. Ha!
Yvonne — always a reassuring, calming presence — once again helped me embrace the contractions. I found my rhythm, my confidence, and let my body do the work.
Joshua and James – Courtesy Van Der Beek Family
Beth Canon (who’s a wonderful midwife) and Sarah (a midwife student), came to assist. Dr. Fischbein arrived, and shortly after, Joshua’s foot — tucked in next to his tush — made its debut.
At 7:42 a.m. Joshua was born into James’ arms in our bed as the sun was rising. Yes, it was painful. But it was also peaceful and perfect.
An hour later I was in the shower, and that evening we had dinner at home, just the four of us.
I truly believe a woman should be able to plan to birth where and how she is most comfortable. In order to make such a decision, it’s crucial to have options.
In a day where the surgical route is readily available, it is equally important that women have the option of planning for a natural birth, as well.
Family shoot with PEOPLE in April – Coliena Rentmeester
— Kimberly Van Der Beek
More from Kimberly’s PEOPLE.com blog series:
- Kimberly Van Der Beek’s Blog: Raising a Spiritual Family
- Kimberly Van Der Beek’s Blog: Feeding a Healthy Family