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From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Baby #2, I fought so hard for a VBAC. I hired a doula and switched care providers twice to find the support I needed—settling on an independent midwife for prenatal care and checking into triage to give birth with hospitalists.
Then, I delivered my precious Baby Boy #2 (aka Tank) via unplanned repeat Cesarean. However, because of the choices I made, I feel empowered and grateful.
I went into spontaneous labor New Year’s Day at 41 weeks, 3 days. I hadn’t had a “normal” labor experience with Baby #1, so this was my first time having regular contractions.
The birth stories I’d read reassured me all the sensations I felt were normal, and I settled in to labor at home as long as possible. I enjoyed being in the comfort of my own home, despite knowing I’d be delivering at the hospital.
In the afternoon, I noticed contractions were getting a little stronger (5-8 minutes apart and about 45 seconds long). Laying down wasn’t as comfortable anymore. I kept checking in with my midwife and doulas, who encouraged me to take a bath and rest as much as possible.
I was a little worried because it was New Year’s Day and my care team was scattered, but they assured me I’d have help when I needed it.
I had planned for an unmedicated labor and drew on all my strength from prenatal yoga to breathe through each contraction. (We opted not to take another birth class this time around, figuring I’d listen to my body and rely on our doulas. Not sure if I’d change that, in hindsight.)
My favorite position was kneeling draped over my yoga ball. Sitting and laying down were NOT my friends.
Around 7 PM, I was 5 cm dilated. My midwife said I could likely labor at home longer, but the frequency of contractions was worrying me. I was also experiencing a stabbing/burning sensation through my back with every contraction (back labor), and felt more comfortable heading in before things intensified.
I decided I would probably need an epidural. I’d wanted to avoid interventions, but I could tell I was tensing up and knew I needed to fully relax or I might inhibit my body’s ability to progress.
Afterwards, I was disappointed in myself for this choice. I wondered why my support team didn’t try to talk me out of the epidural. I’ve since learned that since I was talking calmly about the epidural BETWEEN contractions, they knew I was making an informed choice rather than an emotional one. That was a cool realization.
I had progressed to 7 cm by the time I arrived. I was happy I’d made it almost to transition. I still felt confident in my decision to get an epidural to relax and work with contractions. Not only was the back labor intense, but I was nervous about feeling the pushing part.
By early morning, I was 9 cm and 90% effaced! But I stayed there, and that’s where things started to slowly take a turn.
The biggest concern was the discovery of meconium in my fluid. Baby started having heart rate dips, so I received a low dose of pitocin and extra positioning to see if we could finish things up.
Baby wasn’t liking pitocin, and I started melting down, seeing some of the same signs from birth #1 that things might take a turn.
When the doctor on call realized there was only a small lip of cervix holding things up, I was told I could push. I was so sure they were about to call the surgery. However, I got the experience – terrifying and amazing- of trying to push out a baby.
I pushed on two separate tries. The on-call midwife coached me while I held my husband’s and doula’s hands. They even said I was doing a great job with it, despite being able to feel NOTHING thanks to the epidural. I’m proud of that.
Unfortunately, Baby’s head kept peeking out during pushes then disappearing again, and decelerations continued.
After 29 hours of labor, we made the decision for a C-section. By that time, I’d made my peace and realized my strength–I really had done it all. I’d been given every opportunity for success, but baby had other plans.
There was no pressure and everyone on staff was supportive and reassuring. I remember when things first started turning, as I lay there crying, the on-call midwife told me it was okay to be feeling emotional and reassured me that I had done well. She took the extra moment to honor all the baggage I had brought with me into that room, and I will never forget that.
The fact that everyone acknowledged baby’s safety was #1 while also allowing me every chance to succeed and honoring my feelings made all the difference in the world. I delivered my 10 lb. 5 oz. Tank a short time later. We still can’t believe he was that big!
Tank’s real name means “healer,” and he certainly healed my heart through this experience. I realized we don’t always get the birth we want; we get the birth we need.
Through birth, we learn that things don’t always go according to plan. We learn acceptance. We learn how strong we can be. We are humbled. And as long as we can look back and say, “I did everything in my power to stack the odds in my favor,” and “I was seen, heard, and respected,” we find peace at the end of our birth journeys.