VBAC Stories: After Birth Pains The Night I Almost Died By Melissa Hertz
June 15, 2016
Today I’m starting a new series called VBAC Stories. During this series women from around the world will share their VBAC experiences. My hope with this series is to inspire, motive and give those who have had or trying to have a VBAC hope. If you have a VBAC story you would like to share please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a mother then you know that giving birth is such an unpredictable experience. You never know what could possibly happen, and the uncertainty of it all can be very scary. However, our first guest poster Melissa Hertz shows that no matter the circumstances if you have hope and faith anything is possible. Even when the odds are stacked against you. Please continue to read this amazing women’s story. I also want to say thank you to Melissa for sharing her story.
After Birth Pains The Night I Almost Died
Dramatic title for a birth story isn’t it? Well technically an “after birth story” because things only went wrong after the birth. The birth itself was real, raw, amazing and beautiful. No, I didn’t title my story that to grab your attention or to make my story sound super sensational, but those were actually the words running through my mind as I was rushed to theater after the birth of my son. Trust me, I rehearsed my birth story in my head many times before it actually happened and I was hoping to title it something sweet and probably very cheesy. I had imagined one of those beautiful calm Youtube home water births, (You know the ones where the mother sweetly stares into her newborn’s eyes and there is no blood or pain, only happiness and peace. She then climbs into her own bed with her baby and they all live happily ever after.) Sadly, for me this was not to be. Instead I was the poor helpless patient in a dramatic and very bloody episode of ER.
But this is all without context so let me rewind three years back….
On 23 November 2013, my husband, Ashley, baby proposed to me. Six months later we were still not pregnant and to cut a long story short, over the next year, I underwent three different surgeries to remove three different polyps that were preventing us from becoming pregnant.
But when things still didn’t happen I decided it was time to give up and reasoned that God probably wanted me to focus on ministry and my music career. Even though I wanted four children, it seemed that I was probably not meant to have another child.
However, God’s ways and His timing are not mine. On 1 September 2015, after having no expectation of falling pregnant, we were absolutely overjoyed to discover that I was pregnant.
Except for morning sickness in the the first trimester, and spotting until 16 weeks, I had a wonderful pregnancy. I made sure I ate well and worked out, I did hundreds of squats as I was told it makes for a fast and easy labor. I ate dates and drank raspberry leaf tea in the last trimester, as this is meant to help the cervix soften and strengthen the uterus. I read all the books I could on home birth and natural birth after cesarean. I spent many hours researching the effects of natural birth on the baby and how the baby benefits from a drug free natural birth. I was particularly influenced by a documentary called Microbirth that researches the effects that natural birth has on a baby’s immune system.
I so desired a natural birth, with all its textures and in all its realness and rawness. However I had two cesareans. The first one because my daughter was breech, and the second, because, well, my gyne said natural birth after cesarean is not an option. The danger with a natural birth after cesarean is that there is a 1% chance that the previous uterine scar can rupture. Small, teeny tiny chance but very few South African gynaecologists want to take the chance.
We were overjoyed to discover that we were expecting a son and chose to name him Quade (number four) because he is my fourth baby. I found a midwife and a doula who would support me and specifically asked God to take the burning desire to birth naturally away, if it was not from Him.
I created a Whatsapp prayer group months before my due date and asked close friends to pray for us and the birth. But, most importantly I myself spent hours in prayer, pleading with God and begging for a supernatural birth experience.
And that is exactly what I got…
I had my 36 week gyne appointment, my gyne told me he is not in favor of me having a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean) as he said my uterus is too thin. So, I had a detailed scan with The Fetal Assessment Centre to check if there was anything to be concerned about before attempting at hbac2 (home birth after two cesareans.) Baby Quade’s heart was checked at the detailed scan, and all seemed well with both of us for the birth.
Home birth is in fact not as dangerous as it sounds and many women are choosing home birth over a hospital birth because of all the interventions in hospital, slow labor and make cesarean more likely to be the end result. The stress of being in hospital and not in a familiar and safe environment, the bright hospital lights, the constant interruptions of nurses and doctors, as well as being strapped down to a bed and forced to labor lying down all increase the chance of a cesarean.
Studies show that home birth is as safe as a hospital birth when a qualified midwife is present.
The danger comes in when there are undiagnosed complications like I had….
40 weeks came and baby was still comfortable in utero and we were still at peace with our decision and on 8 May (Mothersday) at 9:30pm my water broke and I excitedly thought our little man would be born soon. The scene was set, birth box packed and birth space prepped. Labor lasted through the night,yet nothing happened. I went for a long walk the next day trying to “help” labor along, but contractions remained 15 minutes apart.
I continued to labor through the night on Monday and when I was examined on Tuesday morning I was 10cm dilated. I could feel Quade’s head with my fingers, he was so near yet so far.
“It is well” by Bethel was my anthem during labor and the labor at home was amazing. (Still sore though!) My husband and I had many “God moments” of feeling such peace during the labor. It was amazing.
After another entire day of contractions being 15 minutes apart, my midwife told me at 9pm that I need to try and push with every contraction. I pushed for 4 long hours and still my baby didn’t want to budge. It seemed so simple, if only he would push down on the pelvic floor, he would crown and he would be born! After 51 hours of labor, after hours of pain and lack of sleep, I sat in a warm bath trying to cope with sleep deprivation and pain, and my husband, with tears in his eyes said, “Please give up now. You tried and now it is time to give up.” I agreed it was time to get my baby out. Miraculously, not once, did Quade’s heart beat show that he was in distress… I would often tell my son throughout the pregnancy and labor to be calm and trust God… And I believe this is why he never went into distress. There was no medical emergency, except that I was exhausted. We called my gynae and I had a hospital transfer. My husband drove me to the hospital and our doula Vania Truter met us there, and when the doctor arrived, he assisted me with a suction and episiotomy, as I was too exhausted to push and Quade didn’t want to crown. I had to have a drug free birth, as my baby was already almost there when we got to the hospital, and he would’ve been born before any medication could take effect. At 2:20am on 11 May, Quade Fletcher Hertz was born, and it was beautiful moment. God blessed me with the natural birth I so wanted… My husband cried beside me, we were so elated… we did it! We did it!!!
The gynae stitched me up, but then noticed that my placenta didn’t want to deliver, and when it did, it was in pieces. He realized something was wrong when the placenta wasn’t whole and I started to bleed. After already being stitched up, he now had to stick his entire hand back into me to see what was going on. It was then that he realized that my uterus was busy inverting. I had placenta accreta, (the placenta had grown into the uterus, so when it was delivered the uterus turned inside out like a sock), and because of this it needed to be “fixed” as soon as possible, resulting in the doctor having to literally fist my uterus back into position… repeatedly and forcefully, tearing the stitches open, in an attempt to save my life. Bear in mind that I had a drug free birth, so this was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life, I can’t even describe it.
And then suddenly, I started to feel light headed. I asked my doula who was still breast feeding her own twin boys to please breast feed my son for me, but due to hospital policy she wasn’t able to. Thankfully she then managed to latch Quade and he was able to drink from me, while I began to go in and out of consciousness, slowly bleeding out. I would wake to my husband standing over me and crying, I could see the fear in his eyes, I could see the panic as nurses were running and rushing about, I could feel the blood pumping out of me. I then heard the nurses read out my husband’s ID no, and somehow, by some miracle, I suddenly realised that in all the confusion the hospital thought that I was Ashley…I managed to shout “I am B positive, and that is not my ID number, I am Melissa!” I would have received the wrong blood type! As I was being rushed into theatre I prayed, “God you know Ashley needs me, I trust you, I trust that I won’t die”. I was still praying when the surgeon put his hand on me and said “She is ice cold, we are losing her.” I continued to pray, “I trust you Lord, I know that tonight I have almost died… I trust You for a miracle.”
How is it that I was not afraid? I’m not exactly sure, because it freaks me out now… all I can think is that this must be the peace that surpasses all understanding that only God can give (Philippians 4:7). Supernatural is the only word to describe it, and supernatural is what I had prayed and asked for.
The next thing I can remember, is waking up in the ICU. There were drips, drains and machines everywhere and oxygen pipes in my nose. There were three of these drips in my arms, one in my neck, a catheter and a drain… I was sore everywhere. I had received 5 blood transfusions, life saving blood that had saved me from bleeding to death. I had lost 4 of the 5 litres of blood in my body, and an emergency hysterectomy had to be performed. When I woke up, the doctors told me the news, they were words that broke my heart… “we had to remove your uterus to stop the bleeding and save your life.”
My heart was broken for what could have been, but I was alive, and it is an absolute miracle that I didn’t die that night. The average person can survive a blood loss of 25%. Blood loss of 40% or more, would result in the average person going into organ failure and dying http://lifeinthefastlane.com/ccc/major-haemorrhage-in-trauma/
I had lost 80% of my blood…80%!
It is only by His mercy and a miracle that I am still alive today, with no organ damage. Yes, it seems impossible and unreal, but here I am, living proof. Doctors and nurses could not believe that I had survived, and I was the talk of the Durbanville Medi Clinic for the next few days.
I was in ICU for 3 days, I breast fed and did skin on skin with little Quade as often as I could. I made a decision to breast feed despite the challenges. I had breast fed my other two children and wanted the health benefits and bonding experience with Quade too. The hospital staff were so helpful and accommodating. They helped me change Quade’s nappies and bath him, and when I needed sleep they would take him back to the maternity ward. I was unable to walk until day five, so their help was so appreciated.
It was severe, and so I would have lost my womb regardless of how I gave birth. The complications of my birth were unrelated to how I gave birth. Natural birth was not the reason for placenta accreta, but as a result of my previous c sections. This was the reason for my placenta growing into my uterus and then causing it to turn inside out like a sock after I gave birth. The body then tried to reject the placenta and this caused the heavy bleeding. Placenta accreta affects 1in 533 women… and I was one of them.
When I went for my check up two weeks after the birth, the Dr showed me the pathology report on my uterus. Not only did I have placenta accreta, but also a condition called adenomyosis (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adenomyosis/basics/definition/con-20024740). This is very difficult to diagnose, and is only really diagnosed after a hysterectomy. Adenomyosis makes it very difficult, if not impossible to conceive, and in the unlikely event of conceiving, a miscarriage is highly probable. Our little miracle was conceived against the odds, and God’s hand of protection carried him to full term. His life is a miracle, and the fact that I didn’t die is an absolute miracle too. Was anyone to blame for not diagnosing the placenta accreta? No. it is very difficult to detect and only an MRI scan that costs around R6000 can detect it. It is not a routine test done in pregnancy as it affects so few women.
I know and believe, without a doubt in my mind, that the hours I spent in prayer for the pregnancy and birth, and the many prayers of my prayer warriors, both throughout the pregnancy and when fighting for my life, are what kept Quade safe and me alive. The Lord hears the prayers of His people (Proverbs 15:29), He heard our prayers and He made miracles happen.
If you want to read how Melissa’s recovery is going please continue to read the rest on her blog Arise. Butterfly.Glorify.
Also check out Melissa’s beautiful music. This is her song called “I Feel The Rain (Official Music Video).