Today, I get to share with you my own VBAC birth story! It’s already been a few weeks since Ellie arrived, and I am finally able to sit down and write this and it still seems surreal to me! If you’ve been following my blog, you know that over the past three years I have been doing a lot to prepare for our second baby – even before we knew that they would be here!
My first baby arrived through a traumatic emergency cesarean section after a long labor in 2012. He presented in an asynclitic posterior position and despite the OB trying to manually turn him twice during the pushing phase – he would not budge. During the attempts to turn him, meconium stained fluid was released, his fetal heart rate plummeted and we were rushed to an operating room. I experienced a panic attack during the surgery and my son was rushed to the NICU due to inhaling the fluid and meconium. We were reunited again more than 7 hours later, an exhausted mama and baby. Recovery was very hard physical, emotionally and mentally.
The following days, weeks, months I started to heal. I started to realize that it was okay to not be okay with how my son was born. And once I acknowledged my own trauma of his birth I was able to truly start healing. I felt like my body had been broken and I needed to figure out how to fix it. I started to reach out to other mothers who had similar experiences to get more support for how I was feeling. And just as I had seen medical staff for my physical healing, I started working on my emotional and mental healing as well – combining PTSD counseling from the surgery with physical activity and took up running. Every mile that I ran started to prove to me that I was not broken – that I am strong and capable. I even ran my first full marathon in January of 2014!
In the Spring of 2014 my husband and I finally agreed that we were ready to expand our family, and that I had healed from our previous birth to try again. Little did we know that it wouldn’t take long to get a positive pregnancy test!
All things considered my second pregnancy was fairly uneventful. I didn’t have any pregnancy related complications. I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer during the first trimester however, and that did make it more interesting but it didn’t change a lot regarding our pregnancy. I really liked my providers and they have a great reputation for VBAC success with over 70% of TOLACs resulting in VBAC. I also hired a Monitrice as a labor assistant so that we would have someone with us throughout labor to assist with positions, pain management, and when the midwife couldn’t be in the room with us. I stayed active and healthy throughout the pregnancy; running until I was 34 weeks and continuing to walk until 38. I saw a chiropractor weekly to help get baby into a good position by using the Webster Technique. I think all of these factors combined really helped to get us ready!
My due date was 8 February 2015 and as the date came and went my anticipation built. Several friends due around the same time (and after me!) had their babies and I was eager to have our baby too! That last week we tried nearly every old wives tale out there to try and convince our little one that it was time to make their debut! Eggplant parmesan, fresh pineapple, sex, walking, acupressure massage, pedicures, evening primrose oil, pumping, spicy thai food and I’m sure there’s more that I tried and even tried twice. This kiddo was just not ready!
I had an appointment on Thursday when I was 40+4 and agreed to finally have a cervical check. I was already at 3 cm and 70% effaced! The midwife did a membrane sweep to see if we could maybe get labor going within the next 12 hours or so. Since I had already been experiencing contractions every night for over a week that didn’t stick around, I was willing to risk going into prodromal labor. I went home hopeful that it would be just what the baby needed, and waited. And waited. I texted my Monitrice around 9pm and she suggested I go to bed saying, “if it is going to work it will work! You’ll need your rest!” I woke up to go to the bathroom around 1:30 am on Friday and nothing was going on still. I chatted with my sister on Facebook, lamenting that the baby would apparently never emerge. and then went back to bed.
Contractions woke me around 5:30 am on Friday, just a few hours after complaining to my Sister. I started timing them and they were about 5 minutes apart already but only 30 seconds or so long. I sent a text to my Monitrice, Ellen, at 6:30 am and got in the shower. I woke up my husband after the shower and let him know that the contractions weren’t letting up and I was fairly sure that this was the real deal. I messaged Ellen again and let her know that I was going to eat some breakfast and keep her posted if they got more intense. By 8:00 am I was starting to think that maybe I should have Ellen here and I called her. She stayed on the phone with me for 15 minutes and at the end she said it might be a better idea to meet at the hospital rather than have her come to the house first – it was starting to snow out and it was the beginning of rush hour traffic on a Friday!
We headed towards the hospital and arrived there around 9 am. In triage they had me change, did some monitoring, took some blood, inserted my Hep-Lock and the Midwife on call, Meredith, came to check me. I was so thankful that she was the Midwife on duty! She had been so reassuring during our appointments and she immediately put me at ease. I was already at 5 cm and 80% effaced. By this time I think the contractions were 2-3 min apart and more than a minute long. I was starting to rely more on my Hypnobabies words and having counter pressure on my hips. Once a room opened up they wheeled me there – I didn’t think I could possibly walk through these contractions. On the way there I had to get the nurse to stop the wheelchair for one!
We got to the delivery room around 10am and that is when it all starts to blend together. I remember them bringing the birthing ball and using it to lean over the bed while Jeremiah, my husband, and Ellen did counter pressure on my hips. Then I was kneeling on the bed facing the wall. Jeremiah says that worked great because they could adjust the head of the bed for me and still give me counter pressure during contractions. Ellen and my husband were great at reminding me to keep my voice low during contractions, and that helped to make me feel more in control of the pain.
I started to transition around 11am and they checked me again; sure enough I was at 8 cm! The intensity of this time surprised me, and having Jeremiah by my side encouraging me was priceless. He even told me that they were starting to prepare the infant warming table – I was going to do this!! He even prayed with me for strength and comfort. Not long after this I started to have the urge to push, but Meredith and Ellen let me know how important it was to wait until I was at 10 so that I wouldn’t swell and make it harder to push when the time came. They had me blow my breath out like blowing out a candle through contractions to help resist pushing, it took a lot of focus and encouragement. They were having a hard time getting a heart beat from the baby, so they had me turn around on the bed so that I was laying on my left side. They found a great heart rate and checked me again.. and said I could push!! I was so relieved! It was 11:20 am.
I hooked my arm through one knee and Ellen helped to brace the other. Jeremiah held my hand and helped coach me through pushing, relaying to me what Ellen and Meredith were saying about slowing down, tucking my chin, staying focused and what was happening. We prayed together again, thanking God for everything and asking for more strength. The nurses brought a mirror out so that I could see what was going on – I took one look and was done with that! Ha! The need to push was so intense that it was hard to resist and slow down so that the baby didn’t come too fast. It wasn’t long until our precious baby emerged and as they helped me bring her to my chest, my husband announced that our little girl was here at last! 11:37 am! Only 17 minutes of pushing!
She was beautiful. I could hardly believe it was real! I had done it! She was here! The three of us reveled in the moment, soaking in the moment that we got to meet each other. She latched right away and we got to spend some time doing skin to skin as Meredith repaired a small tear and helped with delivering the placenta. After an hour of family time, the nurse took Ellie’s measurements while I started to get a bit cleaned up. Meredith and Ellen joked about us being able to leave the next day since everything went so smoothly!
I started to notice some bleeding as we were getting ready to go to the recovery wing. I told the nurse and she checked me before we left the delivery room and then called ahead to have an OB meet us at the recovery room to double check the bleeding. I was still feeling a lot of pressure and pain, which surprised me, but I had a hard time describing it to anyone so I wasn’t sure if it was normal or not. When the OB came to our room he was also followed by a small swarm of nurses with different carts and trays. He said that they needed to check me for a hemorrhage and not to worry. Lets just say that even though he was calm and collected, the influx of staff and the uptick of concern in the room made me anxious. Thankfully, Ellie was sleeping peacefully after her eventful morning.
Before the OB started to check for the hemorrhage, they gave me pain medication through the hep-lock that was placed while I had been in triage earlier that morning. I was so thankful that I hadn’t fought back on the hospital policy that required them for VBAC patients! Jeremiah took my hand and comforted me as the OB checked and found more than 800 mL of blood and tissue that had to be removed. It was a very painful procedure, but the OB was able to remove everything that needed to be and ensured that there was no active bleeding. Thankfully I did not need a blood transfusion, but they were going to keep a close eye on me for 48 hours to make sure that there was no more bleeding. They also double checked with an ultrasound machine that there was no additional tissue or anything remaining.
After a roller coaster of a day, we were finally able to relax as a family! We started calling our families and letting them know that Ellie Grace had arrived safely and that we were doing well. And I finally got to eat! Pancakes, bacon, eggs and a big glass of orange juice delivered right to my room for an afternoon snack. It was already after 4:00pm!
I am so thankful and blessed from this journey. Ellie is amazing, and Noah is a great big brother to her already. I know that many VBAC moms say that their births are healing and in many ways it was. During my pregnancy there were so many moments when I still doubted myself, my body, and God’s plan for us. When I crossed the finish line of my marathon last year I had finally had a moment where I felt like my body could handle anything and that I wasn’t broken anymore. Ellie’s arrival was the reaffirmation of that moment, and that as long as I trusted God I could do anything.