A little background: In 2008 I had my first son via non-emergency, unplanned c-section. Being a first time parent who had attended a hospital childbirth education class, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I was wrong. I went into the hospital at 3cms, was given an epidural and pitocin within a few hours of being admitted, and an hour after that, I was wheeled into the OR for surgery due to my son’s fluctuating heartbeat. I’ve spent countless hours after that researching VBAC, and realizing that I was taken advantage of. If there is anything to be learned from my story, it’s do your research. Avoid the first c-section, and don’t let the doctors make the decisions for your body. Below, my journey from VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) to CBAC (cesarean birth after cesarean).
As Hypnobabies (my chosen method for pain management) suggests, I dutifully visualized my ideal birth. My contractions, in my mind, started the morning of June 8th (early enough so that my husband stayed home from work) and were entirely manageable. I showered, I used my birthing ball, and 8 hours later my son was born – easily. I was preparing for a VBAC, and wanted everything to go perfectly. Mother nature had different plans.
I had an appointment with my midwife on June 8th, figuring there was a good chance that I wouldn’t make it. By 7pm, the time of my appointment, I figured that I was wrong. I had no progress other than the baby having descended a bit lower than he had been – I also confirmed that he was posterior. My husband, mother, my 2 year old and I went to have dinner after the appointment at a nearby restaurant, one of my favorites, but I had trouble finishing my meal…something that hardly ever happens for me. I went home and checked out spinningbabies.com for a few minutes, then went to sit on my birthing ball to try to get the baby to turn. I got off my ball at around 10:45 pm, and laid down on my bed face down with my body pillow. At a little after 11pm, I felt kind of weird so I got off the bed, and something told me to go into the bathroom. I checked and realized that my water had broken. I was kind of in shock, and called out to my husband “Um…I think my water just broke.” I cleaned up, then went back into the bedroom to sit on my ball. My husband decided to get some rest, which I felt was probably a good idea, then promptly passed out. I started having some contractions, but knew I should try to get some rest so I tried to lay down. That lasted for about 5 minutes, until I got a very painful contraction, and realized that that position hurt too much to stay in. I got back on my ball and called my mother and doula to tell them what was going on, and that I would call them back with updates. I weathered a few more contractions that I realized were coming pretty frequently, and I decided to start timing them. They were coming approximately every 3-5 minutes, but were not very strong at that point. My water kept leaking and blood was coming out. I decided to try to get in touch with my midwife to tell her what was going on. I called her answering service and had to talk to the Dr on call. I told him what was going on, and he told that I should get to the hospital. Because my intention was to stay out of the hospital for as long as possible, I decided to take my time, take a shower, and see what happened with my contractions. By around 2am they were still around 3 minutes apart, and were very intense as they radiated throughout my front and back. I had trouble finding a comfortable position, and was unable to get into any positions that might have helped my baby turn, as they caused intense pain. The only way I was comfortable was standing straight up. I decided that I wanted to go to the hospital and get settled (much earlier than I had wanted to, but I wasn’t expecting broken water and back labor). I called my mother and doula, woke up my husband, and we started getting everything ready and my husband packed up the car. I drank some coconut juice, and thought about eating a yogurt, but since I wasn’t hungry I didn’t think it would be a good idea to force myself.
My mother and doula arrived, and we set out caravan style to the hospital. It took us about 30 mins, and we arrived there at around 3:30am. When we walked to the nurses desk in the labor and delivery ward, the nurses were all sitting there talking, and it felt as if I were interrupting them by needing a room. After they each looked at each other as if silently saying ‘not it!’ one of them got up to show me to a room. As I was the only one laboring there at that time, I was shown to one of the largest rooms (which turned out to be so great with lots of room for my 2 year old to run around). We settled in, did paperwork, a heplok was inserted and a fetal monitor was set up, then we were left alone for some time. I spent that time sitting up in the bed, walking around and sitting on my ball. I was handling contractions by relaxing as much as possible, breathing, and making an ooooohing sound. I was still experiencing a good deal of pain with each contraction, especially in my back. My midwife came to check on me at around 6 or 7am and did an internal (that was extremely painful as my cervix was still very posterior and I was not able to relax very well during the procedure) and found that I was only around 3cms. I was somewhat disappointed, but I was still keeping positive. She said I and the baby were doing great, and that she was going to the office to take care of some patients. A new nurse came in to explain some VBAC rules to me, and I felt she was a bit stern about them, but I just tuned her out. I was only allowed ice chips from that point on, but I had been drinking gatorade up until then. Time passed and my contractions started to slow. They still felt intense to me, but apparently they were not being very effective. I was as active as possible during this time, dancing with my husband, doing lunges, sitting on the toilet, and sitting on my ball, trying to use gravity and motion to dilate and get the baby to descend. If I tensed up, my doula would touch my shoulders reminding me to relax, and when I frowned she would touch my forehead and it would help me relax. It helped so much. Sometime around 1pm, my midwife came back to check me again and said I was around 5-6cms. The nurse came in and said that she had gotten clearance for me to disconnect from the monitors and walk around outside my room. They wanted to get my contractions going again, as they had slowed down a lot by this point. Of course I wanted the labor to progress, but I was kind of enjoying the reprieve from the pain. So my doula and I walked around the L&D ward, then she suggested we go outside for a little while. I figured it would be fine, as no stipulations were made about it. We were outside for around 20 minutes, and I only had 2 contractions during that time. We were sitting chatting at a gazebo outside the maternity entrance when the nurse came out in a panic, looking for me. She chastised us that we weren’t supposed to leave the floor, but as that was not made clear, I didn’t think any apologies were necessary. I returned to the room, was hooked back up, and continued trying to help my contractions pick up. My doula was great during this time, pressing on my pressure points, helping me through contractions, getting my heat pad heated up and holding it on my back. She was absolutely wonderful. The nurse had me start doing nipple stimulation as well. Nothing we were doing, however, was helping all that much and pitocin wasn’t an option as I was a VBAC. At around 5pm my midwife checked me again, and I was still only at around 5 cms. I was very disappointed. I had some sugar water in my IV for hydration, and was unhooked to walk to halls of the L&D ward again. At around 8pm, with no progress, my temperature started to rise to around 99-100. I was given more sugar water and antibiotics. My midwife said that the temperature could be due to dehydration, and after the sugar water and antibiotics, it started to go back down. At that point, I pretty much knew that my chances to VBAC were growing slimmer and slimmer, and the contractions were getting so bad that I couldn’t get through them with breathing or ooohing anymore. They had me laying on my side in the bed, and every time one would come on I would tense up and moan with the pain. I started crying, mostly from disappointment and acceptance that I was probably going to have a surgical delivery. I asked for an epidural, knowing that either it would help me relax and dilate more, or I would need it anyway to have a section. It took the anesthesiologist around 45 mins to get to my room, but it felt like forever. My contractions were so painful at that point and I had a very hard time handling them when they came on. Throughout the whole experience, my doula and family were there comforting me. I am so appreciative of their help and support; I couldn’t have done it without them. After the epidural was placed (it took some time as I was still able to feel pain in my right side, so they had to make several attempts at fixing it), my midwife sat down and explained what would happen if I got an infection and my temperature went up – the baby would be taken to the NICU and kept there for a while, etc. She fully explained everything and let me make all the decisions. I couldn’t be happier with the way she handled things. I felt like I really had a say in what was going on. She also said we needed to start thinking about a c-section. I cried some more, and asked her if we could have another hour since I just got my epidural and I wanted to see if miracles could happen. She agreed and left us alone for a little more than an hour. She returned and checked me again…still at 5cms, but the baby’s head had started to go back up instead of coming down, and my cervix was starting to swell. At this point, I had accepted that the baby was not going to come vaginally, and I agreed to a c-section. My son, A, was born at 10:33pm on June 9th, 7.3lbs 19 1/4 inches, 23 1/2 hours after my water broke, 22 of which were unmedicated back labor. He was facing straight up, my midwife said, and had a bit of a cone head. One side of his face was a little flatter and one of his nostrils is a little flatter than the other side, leading me to believe that he was in a bad position. He also has a neck spasm on one side that we have to stretch for him. Otherwise he is perfect.
My recovery has been much better this time, partly because of my frame of mind I believe. I accepted that I had really tried my best and done all that I could to deliver him vaginally, but it was just not meant to be. Since then, I have wondered what went wrong, and why it wouldn’t work. I am pretty certain it was due to his position, but I guess I will never really know. In all, I do not regret a moment of the experience, and I am glad to say that I tried to give my son the best birth that I possibly could.