Originally published in 2012
Like all VBAC stories, mine starts with the birth of my first child. My oldest was breech from 19 weeks on to the end – the girl would not budge. We were in the midst of trying everything under the sun to flip her around and look for an OB who would do a breech delivery but at 37 weeks, my water broke and the game was over. Contractions started pretty much right away but knowing that she was breech, it didn’t make sense for me to sit around laboring at that point so we went right in for the c-section. Aside from throwing up on my daughter the first time I held her, it went pretty well; my recovery was smooth and relatively easy. At the first mention of her being breech, and the possibility of a c-section, I was already researching VBAC. Knowing that I could do a VBAC with my next really helped me accept my first c-section.
Just 9 short months later we found out we were expecting number 2. I went wild with VBAC research and was excited to take on the challenge. The option of a repeat cesarean never even crossed my mind. It was NOT an option for me. This way of thinking turned out to be a big mistake.
At a routine check-up at 33 weeks, my blood pressure was elevated and I had protein in my urine. It was bad – they sent me straight to L&D for 24-hour monitoring. By the time I got over to L&D though, the doctors were saying I would be staying there, on bed rest, until it was time to have the baby. That ended up not mattering because less then 24 hours later, my nurse came in to tell me not to eat my breakfast and not to eat or drink anything else. It’s amazing how “don’t eat your breakfast” can rip your heart out when you know what it means. Again the c-section went well – my son did as well as you would expect for a 33 weeker. While my c-section recovery was phenomenally easy, the preeclampsia recovery was slow and scary. I was stuck in my hospital bed for a week with only one or two NICU visits a day. It gave me a lot of time to think about all the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” and by the time I left the hospital, I had a small list of goals for my next pregnancy.
1) Stay healthy. Avoid getting pre-eclampsia again.
2) Make it to at least 38 weeks.
3) Labor. Even if I knew things would end in a cesarean for whatever reason, I still wanted to labor for as long as I could.
It’s amazing how many nights I laid in bed unable to sleep just dwelling on these goals. They consumed me long before we were even planning a third child. I knew that there were parts I didn’t really have any control over. I knew some obscure problem or abnormality could show up and I would be unable to prevent it but I also knew that there were things I could control. Staying healthy was the most difficult for me – I’ve always had really grand ideas of how I want to eat but the fact of the matter is I love junk. I love sugar (really, who doesn’t?). I decided to try the Brewers diet to avoid pre-eclampsia. I know there are plenty of people out there who don’t believe in it but after looking it over, I couldn’t see how it could hurt to try. My goal for health didn’t stop there though. I wasn’t going to let any other conditions rain on my parade either and because of my love of sugar, I was particularly worried about gestational diabetes. To combat this, I cut all refined sugars out of my diet. This is not an easy task for a sugar-craving pregnant momma, let me tell you! Making it to 38 weeks was the one goal I felt like I had the least amount of control over. My water had broken at 37 weeks with my daughter and it seemed like early babies might just be ‘my thing.’ I didn’t want another early baby though, I wanted NORMAL and normal is late. Aside from staying healthy, all I could think of to do to accomplish this goal was pray and so pray I did.
On December 3rd, 2011, I had accomplished my first two goals and I felt amazing! I also felt ready to have a baby so prayed again “thank you, Lord, for getting me here! I’ll take my baby now.” Actually, my main prayer from pre-conception through my pregnancy was for “normal” so I should not have been surprised that I didn’t go immediately into labor after that. Nope, I prayed for normal and normal is exactly what I got. December 17th (my due date) came with no signs of labor. I truly had NOT expected to make it this far. In fact, I often joked that going late would end up being my unforeseen path to another c-section.
Finally…Wednesday, December 21st, I had an appointment to see my midwife at 4 days past my due date and with my blood pressure starting to go up, I couldn’t avoid the induction talk. Reluctantly we scheduled one for Tuesday the 27th but I was going to do everything I could to avoid it……induction was NOT a part of my VBA2C birth plan. In a last ditch effort to ‘help things along,’ I let my midwife strip my membranes. I honestly wasn’t holding my breath that it would work but by the time we were on our way home, I could already see a difference in my contractions and quickly realized that I WAS going to have this baby on my own BEFORE the induction date (praise God!). The contractions continued to progress through the evening and into the night. I was SURE the baby was going to share a birthday with my best friend on the 22nd. Around 11 pm, we packed up, brought the kids to my brother’s house and headed to the hospital. Things kept up at about the same pace all night and into the morning. Not getting stronger but not letting up, something needed to give. I either needed a break from the contractions so I could get some sleep or I needed to see some progress. As Thursday morning dawned, the contractions finally began to lighten up and space out. BUMMER! I was not happy to make the ‘walk of shame’ out of the hospital with no baby but I knew I needed the break and I also knew it wouldn’t be too long before we were back again. I had put a call into my mom that night so she was planning on coming up in the morning anyway and it was great she came because, after a completely sleepless night, I was able to rest/sleep on the couch ALL DAY. I remember ‘coming to’ a couple times throughout the day to eat but mostly I was passed out resting up for another long night…..
Thursday, December 22 (40+5), in the evening, as we got the kids ready for bed, the contractions picked up again. They progressed quickly and within a few hours were very regular at 3-4 minutes apart. I actually hadn’t been timing the contractions myself but my mom had been listening to me breath from the other room, and like any good worried mother, came out to say “they’re really close. Are you sure you can make it to the hospital in time?!” (We had an hour drive to the hospital). I felt like we had plenty of time but this was my first time in labor and she had done it 6 times…Way to freak me out mom! We made it to the hospital around 1:00 am on Friday the 23rd (40+6). Being a VBA2C, I had to be on continuous monitoring and have a hep-lock placed. I had thought about refusing one or both but decided to just let them be. In the end, neither bothered me at all and I think it helped that the nurses had a little extra peace of mind. When first checked, I was at about 5cm and fully effaced. I was THRILLED seeing as I was a tight 2cm and only 50% effaced just 24-hours earlier. Everything was looking good and I was ready to start laboring in the tub. Unfortunately for me, we had to wait for my midwife to come check me out AND they wanted to see a little more progress before letting me jump in. And so I pressed on, finding no relief at all in the many techniques I had so look forward to trying. Somehow the nice squishy birth ball felt like I was sitting on a pole as did the birth stool. All I could do was stand and either hunch over or squat down with each contraction.
Finally my midwife arrives…I have no clue what time – it felt like forever but looking back it could not have been that long. She checks me and because the baby is still pretty high, she can’t get a good feel for how far along I am. The only way for her to tell is to try and check during a contraction. I really did try to let her but as that contraction came on, and I was laying on my back being checked, I was suddenly not so cooperative. She still couldn’t tell for sure but we were pretty sure I was complete…. Ok, I was sure I was complete, I don’t know what she thought. She also wasn’t sure at this point if my water had broken or not which was part of why she was having a hard time checking dilation. After what felt like hours (probably more like 30-40 min) of contemplating how far along I was, I was finally let into the tub. It. Was. Heavenly. My first contraction in the tub and I felt myself pushing a little – and I couldn’t stop it. I felt like I always hear of people feeling like this hours before ‘real’ pushing begins, so I just let my body do it’s thing and I didn’t say anything. The second and third contraction in the tub and more unstoppable pushing. Fourth contraction in the tub, more pushing and then I feel something coming out….
John yells to the nurse so I know now it’s not just in my head. My midwife was just walking in – apparently, my bag of waters was bulging out, so she grabs it and pops it. In hindsight this bothers me to no end. I’m trying really hard to not let it get to me because in the big picture it’s such a small detail but she didn’t even ask….I had seriously dreamt of having a baby born in the caul and if she hadn’t done that I may have…. *sigh* move on. Anyway, just like that I can feel baby slide back UP. Not a good feeling. Turns out, my midwife had just come in to get me out of the tub. Baby’s heart rest was not doing well at all and they needed to get a better monitor on him. They whisked me, ‘kicking and screaming’, out of the tub and back to the bed. Since I began planning an unmedicated birth 5 years and three kids ago, I had planned for many different options (water, birth stool, squatting bar…) but not ONCE did I imagine I would be in bed, pushing from my back. This was all wrong and I just knew I couldn’t do it this way. My *picture perfect* birth was gone and I suddenly felt like everyone was doing whatever they wanted to me and I didn’t like it. I felt myself becoming very uncooperative and even more pessimistic about seeing this birth through (which I guess is normal in this stage of labor regardless of the situation). A couple minutes later, baby had an internal monitor screwed into his head and I was told to push. I couldn’t though. Pushing felt all wrong in bed. The position just seemed like it was totally conflicting with what my body was trying to do. In this moment of feeling completely out of control, I remembered my birth plan. Once again I took to prayer. I reminded myself that I alone did not have the strength to do this but I did have a God who could give me the strength. About two or three contractions later when my mind started to clear a little, I started to see the concern on the nurses face and I started actually listening to my midwife and as I began to listen, I could hear my midwife telling me we needed to get baby out ASAP, he wasn’t doing well, and we needed to hurry. I heard as a nurse left the room to call in my back up OB in case they needed to use the vacuum. I had heard enough, and got my focus.
I had already lost the water birth – there was NO WAY they were going to use that vacuum. The baby needed to come out and I was the only one who could make that happen. Once I was able to set my mind to it, it was only about 5 more contractions before he was out. Ahh, the indescribable feeling of a baby slip sliding its way out. That moment when the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders. That moment you realize you actually did it! That moment when simply holding your baby is more important then finding out if you have a son or daughter. That moment! Wow, it’s been almost 8 months now and thinking back to that moment is intense. Looking back at that moment, seeing how much emotion was jam-packed into it, THAT moment is what was missing from my c-section babies. Sure the first time I held them it was special and amazing but that moment was not there. I got to hold him for a second but he wasn’t crying, and because his heart rate had been so low, he was quickly taken from me again. As they took him from my arms I quickly looked to see if the baby was a girl or boy…..It’s a BOY! (I knew it!) I watched as they looked him over, still not crying, but also no concern on the doctors face. A few more minutes passed and still no crying. Finally, they handed my quiet little baby back to me, perfectly pink and healthy, just quiet.
Born at 4:54 am, on December 23rd.
(40 weeks 6 days)
Weighing in at 8lbs 14oz (seriously can’t I just say 9lbs?)
It wasn’t exactly what I had dreamed but it was perfect and beautiful.
I had done the impossible!