Our next VBAC story comes from a amazing mother who wasn’t afraid to take charge during her hospital birth. Her story demonstrates that by listening to your instincts you can gain confidence in your natural abilities. I would like to thank Alexandra for sharing her story with us. It is sure to encourage many women on their VBAC journey’s. You can find Alexandra at her Etsy shop Nimalab where she sells “handmade crocheted goodies for the whole family”.
Be sure to check out the first story VBAC Stories: After Birth Pains The Night I Almost Died By Melissa Hertz
My first daughter was born in March of 2015 by C-section after 26 hours of labor and 2.5 hours of pushing. She was posterior and, although my C-section was not an emergency (for which I am grateful), it was certainly not planned. The fear, physical pain, and emotional pain from her birth stayed with me for months. I had flashbacks of being wheeled from a quiet, dim labor and delivery room to a bustling, crowded, bright operating room. I had recurring, vivid nightmares of the epidural needle piercing my back and then lying on the operating table shaking. While they were prepping me for the surgery, someone asked me how I was feeling, and I said, “I am scared” and then I started to cry. The person offered no words of comfort and turned his back to me and walked away. I felt alone and scared – two things I never wanted to feel during the birth of my child.
After her birth, I felt like my body had failed me. Although my husband and I hoped for more children, I was petrified to go through childbirth again. I joined a support group for mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I wanted to think of my daughter’s birth with joy and not fear. As I rocked my daughter every night, I prayed that God would heal the emotional and physical scars that had overcome me. I felt guilty for not being able to just put all of these negative feelings surrounding her birth behind me.
Six months after her birth, we found out we were expecting again. My husband and I were thrilled that our family was growing, but I told him that I would have to be put under to go through another surgery. I did not want to remember it and did not think I was strong enough to face it. I assumed that I would have to have another C-section because the birth interval would only be 15 months. I was furious and frustrated that my C-section may put my future pregnancies at risk. I knew a little about VBACs, but did not think I would be allowed to have one because of the small birth interval.
We had rushed to find an OB with our first pregnancy, but this time decided to take our time as we researched the risks of a VBAC versus the risks of a repeat Cesarean. We found an amazing, supportive midwife with a high VBAC rate. We took a private childbirth class with a labor and delivery nurse who showed us positions to labor in so that I could stay home as long as possible. I squatted every night while brushing my teeth, walked everyday, and ate as healthy as possible to prepare my body for childbirth. A family friend who had a VBAC 30 years ago told me to write a list of positive affirmations and say them to myself every night, and I did. I joined the supportive and knowledgeable VBAC support message boards on babycenter.com. I strongly confided in my midwife and asked her questions that I was too nervous or ashamed to ask during my first pregnancy. I was determined to do everything in my power to have a better birth experience.
A couple of weeks before my due date, my midwife reminded me that she would be out of town from May 20th-May 25th. My due date was June 3rd, so we weren’t too concerned about her not being here for the birth. On May 23 at 7:30 pm I felt a pop at the top of my pelvis as I put my daughter down on the floor to play. I told my husband, and then felt a trickle between my legs and realized my water had broken. Despite the fact that my midwife was out of town, a calm washed over me and I knew that I could do this with or without her. Contractions started coming 30 minutes later, and were manageable as I finished packing for the hospital and playing with my daughter. After a little while I told my husband that I wanted to make myself an egg sandwich because I wanted to make sure I ate something early in labor. It took me an hour to make that sandwich because it took my full concentration to get through contractions. I didn’t even eat it because I had no appetite by the time I was finished. The contractions were getting intense and very close together. Rocking in our rocking chair and swaying in a squat were the best ways to manage the pain. Squatting and swaying in the shower was even better! My midwife works with two fantastic OBs, and when I called the office I was told that the one on call would call me back in twenty minutes. I was in the shower when he called, so my husband brought the phone to me. I could not focus on the doctor’s questions or speak during contractions. We knew it was definitely time to go to the hospital, and I was dreading the 20 minute car ride there since sitting still had become excruciating.
We made it to the hospital and the whole car ride I told my husband I was getting the epidural (even though I really wanted an unmedicated birth…later he told me that he knew I wasn’t really going to get the epidural!). We got to the hospital and I refused a wheelchair. I was such a spectacle, but I did not care! When a contraction would hit I would grab onto a chair, my husband, or a random podium while I squatted and moaned. A couple of people tried to get me to sit in a wheelchair and my husband kept telling them that I didn’t want one. We finally reached labor and delivery and when I got into the triage room, the nurse asked me for a urine sample. In the middle of her instructions I just dropped my pants and declared that I really had to pee! I was determined not to hold back at all during this birth. She laughed and gave me the cup to take into the bathroom. Another contraction hit so I grabbed onto the wall and squatted. A different nurse came in and said “We really need to check you! You don’t want to have your baby in the bathroom!” I told her, “So what if I do??” They couldn’t get me hooked up to the monitors because I would not sit still – I couldn’t sit still! The contractions were so close with barely a break in between. The nurses were freaking out saying, “We need to monitor you! You’re a VBAC! There are risks!” Note to those nurses: not the right thing to be saying at this time! Of course I wanted to make sure the baby was ok, and I told them I just needed a minute to get through this wave of contractions. Someone behind me asked in a snotty, sassy tone, “Do you want an epidural?” as if to use this as leverage to get me to cooperate, and I snarled, “NO!!” Finally, I agreed to be checked and was told that I was 7-8 cm! I was shocked and elated. This was about 3 hours after my water broke. This labor was going so fast! The nurse poking around down there was taking a little long for my liking so I told her, “Get out!!” I couldn’t believe I was being such a “bad” patient, but I didn’t care. This was my birth and I was in charge.
My husband and the L&D nurse assigned to us led me to a delivery room. I asked for the lights to be dimmed, and they obliged. They told me they were hooking me up to fluids and I requested a heplock (which my midwife approved previously). They still hadn’t gotten any readings from the fetal monitor because I could not sit still. All of a sudden, I turned to my nurse and frantically asked, “Is the baby ok?” She calmly and patiently said, “I can’t get a reading since you are moving around, which is fine, but if you sit still I can get a reading whenever you are ready.” She didn’t pressure me or make any demands, and her words motivated me to sit on the bed so that I could be assured that the baby was ok. I squeezed her hand and my husband’s hand during contractions as I lie on the bed. She told me the baby was fine, and then things really picked up. I continued to labor on the bed, and the doctor arrived. He was such a calm and great presence in the room. He even managed to make me laugh in between contractions and I felt totally safe and cared for by my husband, the doctor, and wonderful nurse. The nurse realized I was still wearing my t-shirt under the hospital gown, and she said, “Would you like to take all that off to get ready for skin-to-skin?” This was something I was so sad to have missed with my first daughter, so these words were music to my ears. The doctor said, “Yes! Get her ready for that skin-to-skin that she was gypped out of the first time!” He knew exactly what to say to build my confidence at every moment. Then, out of nowhere, I felt an incredible urge to push, and my body automatically started pushing. I heard the doctor tell my husband, “Now that sounds like 10 cm!” I agreed to let him check me, and sure enough I was 10cm and +1! He told me that I was physically ready to push, but he wanted me to be mentally ready to push. He told me to just let them know when I was ready, and I said,” But how will I know? I failed the first time (referring to my first daughter’s birth)!” He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re doing this NOW! It’s too late for a C-section. You’re not having one! Sorry!” That statement gave me the mental push that I needed to get this baby out. He made me believe that my body really could do this, and it was time to meet my baby.
I started feeling really ready to push, so with the next contraction, I took a deep breath and pushed as hard as I could as someone counted down from 10. I got in another push with that contraction and they told me that they could see the head! My husband looked at me awestruck and his expression gave me a burst of motivation. I pushed the same way through a couple more contractions and the doctor told me to reach down and feel the head. It was squishy and wet and amazing! Between this and the ring of fire that followed I was really motivated to get baby out! In a couple more pushes I felt my baby’s body slide out and felt instant relief. Baby was brought to my chest immediately and I can’t even describe the joy I felt holding this precious little life that I carried for 9 months. We were so busy marveling at our sweet baby that we forgot to check the gender (we did not know beforehand)! Someone asked us if it was a boy or a girl, so my husband and I checked and said, “It’s a girl!” Our little lady waiting at home had a new baby sister!
The staff let us just rest and snuggle our new baby girl for as long as we wanted before doing any measurements or checks. I could not stop kissing her! An hour after she was born, baby girl latched on perfectly and nursed happily for over an hour. We kept thanking the doctor and nurses for keeping us safe and helping us achieve such an amazing birth, and they kept telling us that they didn’t do anything and we did all the work! As if! They were seriously the best team I could have ever asked for.
When I saw the word “Pregnant” pop up on the digital pregnancy test 9 months ago I didn’t understand why God was sending me another baby when I felt so weak, afraid, and incapable of bringing another life into this world. As I kept asking Him to heal me from the birth of my first daughter, I finally realized that He was already answering my prayers. This precious gift of life was sent to me to help me heal and to show me that I am stronger than I could ever imagine and I am capable of tasks that seem impossible. During this pregnancy I prayed for my baby to get here safely, and she did. I prayed to feel cared for by my medical team, and I did. I also prayed to give birth without being afraid, and I did.
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