Caitlin’s VBAC Birth Story

This is the VBAC birth story of my second-born child. With my first birth I had midwifery care throughout my pregnancy but none of the midwives were able to attend the birth. For this VBAC I switched providers where I knew there were always midwives on rotation at the hospital. 

I started having mild sporadic contractions Tuesday through Friday but we decided not to tell people because I didn’t want to get people’s hopes up that baby was coming any time soon. The midwife said I was 2-3 cm dilated and 60% effaced, so my body was preparing for birth but the big event wasn’t happening yet. 

Then Saturday I didn’t have any contractions at all and I was quite disheartened. I drank a super-concentrated red raspberry leaf tea drink that evening and during Sunday.

Sunday I woke up still pregnant. Then that afternoon I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood by myself and contractions came back! After an hour of mild contractions Seth (my husband), David (my 2-year-old son), and I headed to the mall to keep walking. By 5 pm they had gotten stronger. We headed home and had dinner. Seth got David to bed while I did some dishes. I could still stand during contractions though sometimes I had to lean over to focus during them.

At 8 pm Seth got in the shower and I laid in bed to watch some of a cheesy romantic comedy Christmas movie. At that point, I knew this was real labor. Contractions were much stronger and closer together. When Seth got out of the shower I told him to call our Doula, Roz. She was then on her way over but we had a sudden change of plans when I had the bloody show and decided to head to the hospital. Logically we thought I would be in labor a long time since I labored for 30 hours with David. But I just had a gut feeling that this was the right time to go. It was then a whirlwind of tossing some more things into the hospital bag between contractions while Seth made the phone calls (friend to stay at the house with David until my mom arrived).

The drive to Community Hospital was just 12 minutes and I had 6 contractions. We got to the hospital at 10:06 pm. We got settled in the labor and delivery room and our Doula arrived. In my birth plan, I had stated that I did not want to be offered pain medication. Throughout all my labor it was not offered. Seth went to go park the car and I got on my hands and knees on a mat on the floor. Roz (our Doula) was helping me through the contractions. Then I heard a pop and felt a gush, my water broke! I called out for Seth but he was still walking back from parking the car. I got onto the bed as Seth got back to the room. I laid on my side with a peanut ball between my knees and the bed inclined a lot. It was time to push. When a contraction came Seth held one foot and Roz held the other and I pushed with all my might. After a few pushes, I switched to lay on my other side. I pushed that was for a few more contractions then rolled to my back. Martha the attending midwife suggested I grab my feet as I pushed. It was kind of like the “happy baby” yoga pose but my back was more vertical as I wasn’t laying horizontal on the bed. That helped get the baby’s head out. The pushing was crazy. It didn’t hurt to actually push but wow is it a LOT of work!! (I had sore muscles for a while afterward!) The midwife said I had a perineum of steel as it took so long to stretch to let the baby’s head out. The midwife was manually trying to stretch the perineum and I remember her saying “Just tear already!”. After a while, the midwife offered an episiotomy but said the baby was fine and we don’t have to. I said I wanted to push a few more times. And after that, I wanted to go a little longer but I was getting exhausted. I consented to an episiotomy and two pushes later my son Gabriel flew right out of me! Overall I pushed for just 1 hour and 45 minutes. My son was born just 3 hours after arriving at the hospital!

The flood of the natural hormone oxytocin after delivery was amazing. I didn’t experience that with the c section with David. The feelings were wonderful. I was overjoyed to no longer be pregnant and I giggled at everything. It was so funny!

Then I got the shakes and shivers which is apparently completely normal too, as the hormones adjust in your body. That lasted for an hour. Seth got to announce the gender. And five minutes later I double-checked with him and asked are you sure it’s a boy? Haha, I was convinced it would be a girl. 

I did get stitched up down below as I had bilateral internal tearing and the episiotomy (though the episiotomy did not tear further than the surgical cut) but the doctor said it should all heal fine. The whole VBAC experience was amazing and empowering. I dealt with postpartum depression after my first birth but this time around there were no signs of it.

The healing was very different this time around. With my first birth being a cesarean birth, the healing from that was more abdominal. I did deal with vaginal dryness for a while. Recovering from the VBAC was good and bad. The good part was I felt ready to leave the hospital within 12 hours of birth. I could move around just fine. It was sore to sit down and have pressure on my perineum but that was fine after just a few days. The bad part was healing from the episiotomy. The internal tearing seemed to heal fine but I developed a lot of scar tissue on the inside of my vagina with the episiotomy stitches. After a few months postpartum I wanted to have sex but it was too painful. I started seeing a pelvic floor therapist and after a few months with her things started to get better. I did lots of exercises and stretches to help the healing. It took a full 12 months before sex was normal again. I plan to have more children and I still want to have vaginal births but I plan to educate myself more about ways to help stretch the perineum or help it naturally tear rather than get a second episiotomy. 

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