Anyone who knows me knows how deeply my second cesarean affected me. So deeply, that before I even decided to have a third child, I set out to find a path to a VBA2C. I couldn’t bear the thought of having another cesarean. This birth story never would have happened without the amazing support team I had in place, proof that your choice of provider matters beyond a doubt. With a different provider, I wouldn’t have been “allowed” to labor for 41 hours. I wouldn’t have made it through back labor without a doula. Regina’s support and encouragement was invaluable. Most importantly, my husband, Dave, was amazing. He never left my side, never did or said, the wrong thing and was genuinely my rock through my entire journey of bringing our daughter into this world.
VBA2C Birth Story of Sophie Juliette
At 12:57am on Monday, February 21st, I was awoken from a sound sleep with a contraction that radiated from my back and through my hips. Like a cliché, I *knew* this was it. I also knew I should go back to sleep while I could but I was so excited as I lay there and timed the contractions coming 10-15 minutes apart. After an hour or so, I woke Dave up to tell him I thought I was in early labor but, of course, he should go back to sleep. Haha. Silly me. Then we both lay there awake, excited about what was happening. Kate woke up at 3:30 and wanted to hang on me and that’s when I couldn’t lay in bed through the contractions anymore and they picked up to about 7 minutes apart. About 4, we noticed the snow was starting to stick to the road and Kate was still awake, wanting me. We decided to call Dave’s mom to come pick up the kids. I called J, my midwife, and she agreed we would meet at her office for 7. I also called my doula to meet us there. I was having back labor and I simply wasn’t prepared for it.
Once the kids were gone the timing of the contractions continued to speed up but the intensity was about the same. The contractions were still radiating through my back and hips. I ate eggs on toast, getting up from the table for each contraction. We turned all the lights off and I hung over the birth ball in the living room. The snow on the ground was making me nervous and we decided to head to J’s office. In the car, the contractions picked up speed again but as soon as we got to J’s office, my body shut down. J checked me and determined I was just beginning labor. Then, I felt like a fool that I had gotten everyone out of bed for no reason. J, however, was glad I called because she wanted to monitor the baby’s heart rate through some contractions to make sure my uterus was going to tolerate contractions well. After a while, J decided we’d be more comfortable at her house than at her office so we moved the party there.
At J’s house I felt like a watched pot. I felt completely guilty that I had everyone get out of bed for a woman who was barely in labor. I also began to have the first doubts that I could do this; for the pain in my back and hips was excruciating already and it would only be getting stronger. I bounced on the ball in J’s living room while Regina and Dave hung out on the couch and napped. J insisted I try to rest, so she sent me to her bedroom with some lavender oil. I tried to rest but the contractions woke me every 7-10 minutes and lying in bed was like some form of medieval torture. I got up and ate lunch, and then J checked me again. At 3pm, J declared that she felt my watched pot theory was accurate, she was satisfied that my uterus could be trusted at home alone and she sent us home. I felt enormous relief.
Dave and I headed home, I had a small, midwife-ordered glass of wine and we climbed into bed to snuggle and hopefully get some sleep. I did manage to sleep for about an hour then got up to try and have a normal, but restful evening. Dave made some potato soup and I sat in the recliner with the heating pad on my back, still needing to get up and rock my hips through contractions. I showered again and shortly after lost my whole mucous plug. I made Dave come see it, the first of many odd things he would see come out of my body in the next 24 hours! We checked in with J, who suggested some Tylenol PM, and I went to bed sometime between nine and ten.
Shortly after 11pm is when the real action started. My contractions gained intensity and started coming five minutes apart. No way I could stay in bed but I was exhausted and now under Tylenol PM coma, so I propped myself up in the rocking chair with two pillows behind me. I would alternate getting up and walking through one contraction, nodding off for 2-3 minutes in the chair, then rocking through the next contraction. The whole time I remember thinking, “This is why people go to the hospital for epidurals and Ambien.” Finally, after three hours of this, I’d had enough. (I let Dave sleep through this because I knew he’d need to get some rest to be useful to me later!) I called J at 2:30, and my exact words were, “They’re five minutes apart for the last three hours and I don’t feel too good.” She asked me if I wanted to meet her at the hospital and I agreed. We set 4am as the meeting time. I woke up Dave and hopped in the shower. Dave called Regina, the doula, and she arranged to meet us at the hospital. I *knew* that this laboring was different than the night before. I didn’t care what I looked like as I got out the shower. I only dried my hair because it was below freezing out but I threw on sweat pants, a t-shirt, boots and I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders because the idea of putting on a coat sounded intolerable. We got in the car for what was the longest 35 minute car ride of my life. In the car, I needed to moan through the contractions in order to cope. It took me 20 minutes to choke down a granola bar and I drank some orange juice. I had ZERO interest in food at this point.
Dave dropped me off by the ER entrance and went to park the car. No one paid me any attention as I rocked through my contractions while waiting for him to come back. We had to ask the way to L&D since we had only ever been in the main entrance to the hospital. We found our way upstairs and Regina was waiting to let us in the door. They put me into the triage area to get the mandatory 20 minute strip on the EFM then ask me 2000 questions that feel really impertinent at the time. Regina hung out with me while Dave went to register me. J arrived, did a pelvic exam and announced me to be at 6cm.
The 6cm was super significant because we had discussed from the beginning that I wouldn’t even be going to the hospital until I was 6cm. I needed to be in active labor. All throughout my pregnancy I was terrified of actually going to the hospital. I was afraid I would get there and shut down. It ended up being my safe haven and when we got there, and I was more progressed than my body had ever been before, I felt secure, safe and ready to give birth. Things have a way of working out. It’s amazing how that happens.
After I was triaged with a satisfactory strip from the monitors the nurse announced I would be allowed to walk for a while, so I headed down the hall to my tiny, pink labor room and acquainted myself with my surroundings. Shortly before shift change, we were told they’d need to plug the monitors in, a condition of VBAC at the hospital. I also let them put in a hep lock instead of an IV. I was SO EXHAUSTED that I irrationally told J I wanted an epidural, even though I knew that I didn’t. I really and truly just wanted to sleep. J explained to me rationally and logically that since my baby was posterior I needed to be up and moving to help her come down and turn. She didn’t want me stuck in bed on my back. Then, she added that there wouldn’t be time anyway since it was hospital policy to have two bags of IV fluid and I couldn’t be at 8cm or beyond and still get an epidural. She was right. I was past 8cm in no time at all.
The next few hours are still a blur. I know I was able to talk between contractions but not through them. I still only needed Dave or Regina during a contraction but not both of them. I stood and leaned over the back of the bed with Dave or Regina applying pressure to my tailbone and pulling back on my hips through each one. We used essential oils – lavender for relaxation, peppermint to fight nausea and a combo called valor that J had. They really helped. We got lucky on the 7-3 shift and got a self-proclaimed “crunchy” nurse. She had only been on the unit since December and this was her first experience with a midwife and natural birth. She was mesmerized by everything we were doing. I still wanted to punch her when she came in to take my temperature and blood pressure.
Just a few days before labor I had read some articles on the “purple line” technique to assess dilation during labor. I shared the information with J, who had never heard of it, and we actively checked the purple line throughout labor. It always corresponded to the most recent vaginal exam.
Sometime around 10am (time for the morning is seriously a blur), it was determined that I was dilated to a 10 with an anterior lip. That anterior lip would be the bane of my existence over the next eight hours. I started feeling some minor urges to push so J told me to go with what my body was telling me, thinking that the lip was soft enough that I could push past it. I pushed on and off as my body felt the urge over the next three hours. I couldn’t find a comfortable position and I could tell that my pushes weren’t effective. This, combined with exhaustion had me seriously doubting for the first time if I could indeed have a vaginal birth.
Around 2pm it became apparent that our strategy wasn’t working and my discouragement was really showing. I was crying, sweating, falling asleep sitting up and wanting to quit. J asked me to try lying on my side for a few contractions – three on my left, three on my right. THIS was the single most painful event of my entire labor. I cried and SCREAMED through each contraction. J and Regina told me repeatedly to do horse lips through the contractions, which did help but my lips were so dry that they just wouldn’t work.
After those six contractions I had completely lost any and all resolve I had left. That was HORRIBLE. Being trapped in the bed and not able to move made the contractions way more intense than any I had experienced all day. I started screaming to just use the vacuum and get her out! I was DONE. Julie called in the attending doctor for her opinion. Dr. G came in, examined me and she thought she could help me push past the lip. (J had tried earlier but it didn’t work.) Suddenly the room was full of people, the big light was turned on and Dr. G started her work. She had both hands in my vagina with her hands on the baby’s head. We did a few coached pushes and suddenly I could FEEL the baby move down. I was past the lip and I finally was feeling a real and true urge to push. However, I had completely zoned out and gone to my happy place during everything. There was too much noise, too much light and too much happening outside my control. Dr. G told me that I could not have the C-section I was screaming for and she wouldn’t use the vacuum; that I could absolutely push this baby out. It felt fantastic to have an Attending OB/GYN cheering me on. She insisted that I drink a ton of water and push my baby out. J took back control of the situation, Dr. and her team of people who flooded my room left and the big spotlight was turned out. However, the spotlight was left in a position where I couldn’t see the clock and for the first time I wasn’t watching the clock on myself, just letting my body do its job in its own time. We did a few more coached pushes until I finally felt confident in myself but I was too exhausted to try and change positions so I lay on my back with Dave holding one leg and Regina holding the other. The contractions finally stopped hurting. Instead they brought an intense pressure in my pelvis that I couldn’t have ignored if I wanted to.
Sometime during this Dave got his wish to kick a nurse out of the room. She just came in to be nosy and kept asking, “Does she have a bladder? Maybe she can’t push past the bladder.” Of course, I have a bladder, idiot. What you meant was, “Is her bladder full?” After she left, I stated that I needed to use the restroom and our 3-11pm shift nurse said I wasn’t allowed out of the bed because I was at a 10. J flipped her lid. It was awesome. She walked me to the bathroom herself, opened the door and encouraged me when she heard me grunting and pushing on the toilet, and told the Chief Resident off. Then, she told the nurse that as a midwife in the hospital she operates as an independent contractor, only answering to the Attending Drs, certainly no Residents, and that her patients will absolutely use the bathroom if they want to.
Somehow, I ended up back in bed (it’s all a blur after those six contractions in bed) and pushing. I could feel the baby making progress. Someone thought to get cold compresses for my head. I was soaked in sweat. Between each contraction I would lie down and zone out, even sleeping if I could manage it. Dave would put a piece of ice in my mouth except when I couldn’t even muster the energy to chew. I couldn’t even verbally tell him that I was too tired to chew the ice. I just shook my head no. Eventually, I figured out that if I grabbed my own legs when I pushed I was the most effective and soon I could feel the baby’s head getting lower. Dave, J and Regina started telling me they saw the baby’s hair. It was so encouraging to know I was finally getting somewhere!
Because I was a VBAC, it is hospital policy that I be wheeled to the OR to deliver. STUPID, because if I was going to rupture, chances are it wouldn’t happen as the baby was crowning, but whatever. At that point, I had ZERO resolve or energy to fight about it. J was cheering me on to try and push the baby out before they could prep the OR but it didn’t work out that way. We made our way to the OR where we all had to wear ridiculous hairnets and Dave and Regina had to wear those white spacesuit looking outfits. J had to put a mask on. There was an OR assistant that J chased off for screaming at me to PUSH. She told her I liked it quiet and the OR assistant said, “Well then I’m going to have to leave” and did! They took the monitors off of me and pulled up my gown in anticipation of the baby. We were in there for a few pushes and all of a sudden I felt her head. I knew within a few minutes she’d be born. I could no longer put my legs down between contractions but I was still rolling with my body’s messages to push, only pushing with the contractions. I was trying SO HARD. Finally, I felt the rumored “ring of fire” and I knew we were almost there. I screamed, “BURNING” and everyone else in the room screamed back that it was GOOD. My contraction stopped and sure enough, as the baby’s head sat there, my tissue stretched to accommodate and the burning stopped. Next contraction came and out came my baby!
Sophie Juliette was born at 6:04pm. They put her on my chest immediately. My exact words were, “OH MY GOD! I JUST HAD A BABY!” I grabbed her, blood covered and all. She smelled so good. Like babies should smell. The placenta was delivered and although I felt like I had been taken out back and beaten up, my most pressing problem at the moment was that my feet were sitting in the lowered portion of the bed which was a pool of blood and birth goo. My socks were soaked and it was REALLY bothering me! J cleaned me up and announced I only had on small first-degree tear which didn’t even need stitching. We got Sophie to the breast within 30 minutes of her being born. Dave got to hold her and we got to spend nearly an hour with her before she went to the nursery to be weighed and assessed – hospital policy.
I was on a gigantic high for the next few hours. I couldn’t believe I had done it! I had a successful VBA2C! I birthed, without drugs, a baby who weighed 8lbs 7.2oz!
– When I asked to quit about, oh, fifty times, J told me that I was stronger than a lot of women she has been with through childbirth and that I *could* do this, despite my own self-doubts.
– I stated out loud that I wished I had taken the hypnobirthing course. I read the book but didn’t take the classes. J stated that I was absolutely “there”, in the same zone as her hypnobirthing moms. When a contraction came on, I would concentrate on my breathing and move instinctually and moan through the pain. If something happened where I couldn’t get into my zone, for instance, the EFM being adjusted, I would lose my mind and not cope with the pain.
– Dave had both my cell phone and his in his pocket through most of labor. They both kept going off with text messages and tweets and everyone full of concern but finally after my phone vibrated in his pocket one too many times, he took both phones and practically threw them across the room. Things were just *so* intense for me that he couldn’t leave my side for a minute to answer people. I know a lot of people were worried.