Today is my little boy’s birthday and in his honor I’m going to share the story of his birth. This birth story is very special to me. It’s redemptive after a very traumatic birth experience with my firstborn son that ended in a Cesarean section under general anesthesia. I missed my son’s first two hours of life, I missed his first cry, and I missed getting that iconic birth picture everyone always gets with their new family. I literally had to grieve the loss of those things. After that birth I was told it was impossible for me to have children vaginally. I was told I was deformed, broken so-to-speak, and that all future births would have to be Cesarean sections.
But I did my research.
And that was not God’s plan for me.
Can I get an amen hallelujah sister?!
My VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) Birth aka The World’s Longest Birth Story
Let me tell you, we are a nation that has made birth a fearful and dangerous thing. Every complication I experienced the first time through was a direct result of unnecessary interventions. I should have listened to that deep nagging feeling that was telling me not to be induced. But I didn’t because I was impatient. This time around I told God I would do it His way.
It took me to my third trimester to find a practice that would let me have a “trial of labor”. There were six doctors in the practice who all claimed to be pro VBAC. After meeting with every single one of them it became clear that only two felt I had a fighting chance at being successful. And according to all of them, I had to go into labor naturally before 40 weeks, otherwise they would no longer feel comfortable assisting with a VBAC.
We began praying very specifically that I would go into labor on my own in the 39th week.
The day I turned 39 weeks I woke up and knew we would be meeting our baby soon.
The contractions I had been experiencing for days had intensified and were definitely different. I couldn’t walk through them. I went into the bedroom and woke up Scott. “This is the day”, I said. He looked up at me and asked “Are you having contractions?”. I still tease him about that because why would I say this is the day if I wasn’t having contractions?! Moving on. I went into the kitchen and cooked up a big breakfast of scrambled egg burritos and waited for our son to wake up, meanwhile having to stop and breathe through contractions.
I was determined to hold off on going to the hospital until the last minute. I half-joked that I wanted to wait to go to the hospital until I was pushing. There was no way any unnecessary interventions were going to be done on me this time. We took our time getting ready and enjoyed the last minutes we had together as a family of three. We went to Starbucks and then headed to our friend’s house and dropped off our son. I figured I had plenty of time to have the baby before his bedtime and that I would get to see him again before the end of the day. By the time we left our friend’s house the contractions were still only 4-5 minutes apart so we stopped by a park and did a lot of walking. We walked and walked and walked until we found a playground. Then we played.
Pretty soon the contractions were coming 2 minutes apart and we decided it was time to head on over to the hospital.
When we got there we realized this was our first time for the whole pregnancy to be going to the Women’s Center. With my first pregnancy it felt like we were there every other week. The second we walked into the waiting room, however, I immediately began to choke up. I could feel the anxiety starting to rise up in me and I could literally feel the contractions slow down. “How can I help you?” The receptionist asked. “My wife thinks she’s in labor” Scott replied. “Correction,” I said, “I AM in labor”.
“It will be fast” they said.
I was 7 cm dilated and everyone assured me that the baby would be here in no time at all. I was thrilled when I found out the doctor on call was one of the two doctors that actually supported me. It was ten in the morning and her shift didn’t end until 5, so it all seemed perfect.
I wanted an intervention-free birth, but they insisted that I HAD to have an IV and monitors on my stomach at all times. This gave me about 4 feet of room for walking around without all my chords being pulled too tight. My contractions had, indeed, slowed down considerably but I still had to stop and breathe through them. So I walked. I walked and I breathed and I walked. Nurses kept coming in to see the “VBAC trial of labor”. They couldn’t believe how well I was handling transition. I couldn’t believe it either. Little did we all know I wasn’t in transition yet.
Four hours of walking and breathing later, my nurse came in to check my progress. While checking she got a kind of concerned look on her face. A look that I was all to familiar with from my first labor. “He’s still really high up”, she said. “Also his head is at an angle and I feel his umbilical cord in the opening.” She explained to me that if my water was to break and the umbilical cord came out first it would be an emergency situation. She left the room to get my Dr.
I immediately prayed that God would supernaturally rectify the situation and that everything would be in the right place when they checked me again.
A minute later Dr. G came rushing in and checked me again. “The head is in the right place and that’s not the umbilical cord, it’s a little hand,” she said. Then I felt some pressure and she said, “There, I moved it.” I smiled. She gave me the ok to keep laboring, but informed me that I was still only 7 cm dilated.
That news discouraged me. I looked at the clock and realized my 5 o’clock deadline was coming soon before the doctors would switch shifts. I also realized I was famished. My nurse brought me a Popsicle. I asked for real food. They said no. I stewed on the irony of feeding a laboring mom corn syrup and artificial food coloring, but I took it because, well, I was starving.
After the nurse left the room, Scott and I prayed together that things would start to progress. I was starting to get very tired, but every time I sat down the contractions slowed down too much, so I stood and I walked. The Popsicle did nothing to give me energy and so the nurse brought me some powder that she mixed in water and called beef broth. She said it would make my stomach feel full. She lied. Then she brought me orange jello. Surprisingly it actually helped the most and I started to feel a little better.
And the clock kept ticking…
Several more hours went by and it was almost 5 o’clock. Scott had to leave soon to go get our son and we lined up a babysitter to stay at the house with him while he slept. The nurse came in and told me my new doctor would be Dr. H. Scott and I looked at each other. We remembered meeting Dr. H and we remembered really not liking her, but we couldn’t remember why. “Just so you know she will probably really push the pitocin when she sees your contraction patterns” the nurse warned me. She knew how I wanted to avoid any interventions. She left the room.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with emotion and just started sobbing. I missed my son, I was tired, I was stuck eternally at 7 cm, I didn’t want to be alone while Scott was gone, my good doctor was leaving and now I had to finish this out with Dr. H., and I just wanted to have a baby. I told the nurse I was just going to go home. She looked at me like I was crazy and said that was not an option. Scott was really comforting and he texted a friend to come and sit with me to keep me company while he was gone. I pulled myself together and kept walking.
30 minutes later Ashley showed up. I updated Ashley on all the excitement (or extreme lack thereof) from the past 7 hours and she put her hands on my stomach and prayed for me. Right after Dr. H came in and got right down to business. She informed me that when attempting a VBAC after a previous failed labor attempt, statistics showed I really only had a 10%-15% chance of being successful. Immediately I remembered why Scott and I didn’t like this doctor, she’s not the biggest optimist in the group. She went on about other things which I really don’t remember and then she started talking about breaking my water. I know that breaking your water can really help to progress labor, but I also feel that it was a huge factor in the reason my first labor went so wrong. I asked for 10 minutes to think about it and to call my husband. She was not very thrilled at the idea but she left the room and gave me some time. Ashley and I prayed about it once again. I knew that something needed to happen and this was definitely better than pitocin or a c-section. Ashley also thought it was a good idea, and since she had three kids all naturally I definitely trusted her opinion. I called Scott and told him to hurry because I didn’t know how long it would take after they broke my water.
They were really careful to guide the baby’s head down right when it broke. She said his head was transverse, so they had me lay on my right side to encourage him to turn. After several contractions laying down they came back in and put an oxygen mask on me because his heart rate started dipping with the contractions. The oxygen actually felt really good although it made me thirsty and that’s when I found out I was no longer allowed to drink or even have ice chips. Seriously? I think they viewed me as a bomb ready to explode at any minute. Everyone was worried about my uterus splitting open and meanwhile I’m dehydrating on the laboring table. (My next child will be a home birth.)
Ashley let me squeeze the living daylight out of her hand during each contraction and about 6 contractions later I was already 8 cm. I calculated that only 12 more contractions I should have a baby. If only labor followed the rules of math.
At this point the contractions are intense. I am in full on transition and I realize something…
I have to pee.
This wouldn’t have been too much of a problem except I couldn’t move. I don’t know how people walk around during transition. I was stuck in that bed and all I could do was breathe and pray between the almost paralyzing contractions. I could not imagine myself getting up to use the toilet. I knew there was no way I could stand when a contraction hit.
The nurse offered a bed pan but I couldn’t lift my rear end onto the pan (sorry I’m talking about my rear end). Then they brought over a portable toilet with a bucket under the seat. This seemed like the most viable option to me. I decided I would give it a try after the next contraction.
Whatever you do – Don’t Push!
About this time my mom showed up and traded spots with Scott so that I could squeeze her hand. I wanted Scott to be free to take pictures. I know I’m crazy for wanting pictures of being in labor, but I had to fight so hard to actually be given the chance to labor. I wanted proof for myself that I actually did it!
Somewhere around 8:30 I was still psyching myself up to get on the toilet. Finally I decided to just go for it. My mom and Ashley helped me up and as soon as I sat down I had a contraction and my body heaved forward and just started pushing. It was like a strange alien force took over me and there was nothing I could do to control it. “Stop pushing” someone said, but I couldn’t. It was almost like that helpless feeling you get when you are throwing up and you can’t control it, you just have to wait for it to pass. My mom and Ashley practically had to lift me off the toilet and back onto the bed. The nurse checked me and I was 9.5 cm dilated.
At this point I just layed there between contractions trying to prepare myself for when the next one would hit. Every time a contraction came my body would push and I would try to breathe and try to resist but I couldn’t control it. I kept asking them to check me because I was sure I was 10 cm and every time it was still 9.5. I started to think “Is .5 cm really that big of a deal?” and I am pretty sure at one point I asked the nurse to just pull the baby out of me. During one particular contraction I felt something snap inside of me, I really have no idea what it was, but then I was 10 cm.
Hee, Hee, Hoo
Finally it was time to push. All of a sudden the room was a bustle. Nurses were rushing in setting up the baby equipment, they pulled the end off the bed and put the stirrups up for me. They brought out a mirror so I could see what was going on and turned on these huge bright lights. The Dr. came in and sat down in front of me. Each contraction my body took over and I felt like I was losing all control until Ashley reminded me to hold my breath and just push. Once I took control with the breathing and pushing it actually felt so much better. Several times I looked up and saw my Dr. sitting there looking very bored. She would look at her watch, stare off in the distance, and occasionally she would say something to me like “Look, there’s the baby’s head”, but that was about it. I pushed for about 40 minutes. When the baby’s head crowned I felt the ring of fire that everyone talks about and then all of a sudden there was a beautiful baby boy being lifted in the air. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I still had a long ways to go and there he was. I did it! I took that 10% chance and kicked it in the face! I was not broken. My body is able to give birth without surgical intervention.
They placed him on my chest and I heard the first cries come out of his mouth.
Minutes later the doctor began to work on me. There’s really no other way to describe it. I felt like a car in an auto shop. She didn’t explain anything going on. At one point she said I was hemorrhaging and started ordering pitocin, but then the bleeding slowed way down and it became unnecessary. She started stitching me up. Several times I asked her how bad I ripped, but all I got was vague answers. “You have second degree tearing.” and “You have minimal tearing”. I could feel every stitch and all she said was “Well, I’m not going to be able to numb you everywhere.” According to other witnesses in the room, she didn’t numb me at all.
Our son was born at 10:07 pm weighing in at 7 lbs and 5 oz with an initial Apgar score of 9.
After giving birth I walked (albeit very slowly) to the recovery room. I heard a lot of comments along the way from nurses saying “there goes the unmedicated VBAC”. I found out later that having an unmedicated VBAC (at least here in Tucson) is pretty much unheard of. Doctors almost always require an epidural so that if there’s an emergency it’s already in place for a c-section. A nurse later told me as well that Dr. H was the last doctor any of them would ever expect to deliver an unmedicated VBAC. I know that the timing was all God’s. If I had not arrived at the hospital and started the labor with Dr. G, I’m sure Dr. H would not have let me attempt it.
Oh yeah…and I got that picture I always wanted. 🙂
Happy birthday sweet little boy! Your name means “Blessed” and “Happy”. You certainly are a blessed little boy and you are the perfect addition to our family.
And congratulations to anyone who actually read this whole thing!