Monday, July 01, 2013

{Becoming Mother} A Hospital/Unmedicated VBAC Birth Story

I've gotten quite a few questions about my hospital birth with Cannonmy birthing center birth with Cason, why I choose those locations and why I wanted a natural birth. I thought it might be fun to do a blog series on women who have had different birthing experiences and what they've liked about them. I'll be back at the end of the series to share what we liked about our hospital birth and what we liked about our birthing center birth. 

This is not a promo for a particular type of birth, in fact I've tried to cover as many types of births as possible from natural at home to c-section in the hospital. This is more of a "what can you expect" if you were to have one of these types of birth. Hopefully they will encourage you, help you make a birth decision that's right for your family, and most of all simply rejoice in the way God creates life. 

Let me introduce you to my friend, D (for privacy reasons, D has asked to remain anonymous). She and I met in college and had the privilege of serving in ministry together and sharing the same major. Through moves, marriages and children, thanks to Facebook we've stayed in touch, and I'm so excited that she's sharing her VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) story.

If you have seen the recent movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting, you might remember the different birth experiences of the moms at the end. My first experience was very similar to Elizabeth Banks who appreciates the morphine as her baby is born. My second experience was much like Cameron Diaz, though I don’t look nearly as great in bicycle shorts!
After having a c-section in 2011, I assumed I would always have to have c-sections. My doctor never mentioned a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) as an option, and I always got an impression from some in the medical profession that they were unsafe. I have learned, however, that things change quickly in the realm of babies and pregnancy.
After my c-section, the guidelines changed, and all of the sudden, everywhere I went people were asking if I would VBAC. Since the issue leading to my c-section was no longer a problem, I started thinking about the possibility of a different birth experience. This lead to medical research, which lead to asking lots of questions of other women who had made it through a successful VBAC. Once I had done all the research I could find that seemed medically sound, my husband and I made an appointment to ask our OB his input. He said I would be a good candidate, and he agreed I could proceed that direction if I chose (assuming that my body seemed ready, the baby had dropped, the cervix was soft, etc.)
We started the process of taking a three-month-long birth preparation class to have a natural labor experience (because I felt that this would enable me to feel if a problem developed with my c-section scar). We prepared very intensely for labor in every possible way and were feeling so confident that this was the best choice for us in our circumstances.
When I went to my thirty-five week appointment, my OB suddenly wanted me to schedule a c-section because he felt like my body wouldn’t respond well to the trial of labor for a variety of personal reasons. He did not have a problem with me trying to VBAC when we asked him two months prior and none of the physical constraints were new. I felt like I needed to go to someone who was wise, skilled, and confident in my ability to approach labor. This was the right choice, as I later learned how high the first doctor’s c-section rate was (is).
I found the doctor with the highest VBAC rate in town, and after interviewing him, I asked if he would take me on as a patient. After my husband and I met with him and discussed our situation, he strongly felt a VBAC was the better choice for me. Just a few days shy of being full-term in the pregnancy, I changed doctors! It was very stressful as our prior OB had helped us through a great deal, but I am so glad I made the change. We also hired an amazing midwife who would end up being incredibly vital while I was in labor.
I went into labor on a Thursday night. I had intense, progressive labor at home until my water broke Saturday morning. We stayed at our house the maximum time my doctor would permit, then drove to the hospital. Our midwife met us there.
Upon registering we learned from a rather rigid nurse that our OB was the laborist at the other hospital that day and that I would have to deliver with his doctor on call. This doctor proceeded to question my choice to VBAC and listed six catastrophic possibilities that could happen to the baby and me while I was in the height of a contraction. At that point, I made the never-happened-at-this-hospital-before decision to leave in active labor and go to the other hospital. They told me no one had ever done that and that we would have to sign a variety of forms in regard to my decision before they would release me (all while vomiting and in labor).
We got back in the car. I didn’t even know where the other hospital was! We had to follow the midwife there! We left one angry nurse, one secretly supportive nurse, and one doctor with wounded pride and probably a great tinge of relief. My husband and I had worked so hard, and we were not giving up now.
After checking in, I had already been in labor a day and a half. I was still vomiting and having incredibly intense contractions (they got much more intense after my water broke early that morning). It was such a relief to see the face of our new doctor!
He checked me, and I was progressing nicely! We geared up to have what we all thought would be a very quick progression of labor! I tried every laboring position imaginable. You name it, I tried it. Much later, my contractions started to stall out entirely and my doctor said that he wanted to use a minimal dose of pitocin to help contractions intensify. With absolutely no pain relief or epidural, I agreed. Words cannot describe how hard this was. I just can’t sugarcoat it. But, God was so gracious to me.
We had been praying continually. After thirteen hours of transition (which is “suppose” to only last thirty minutes to an hour and a half at max), I was finally complete. It was the longest time period of my life, and my husband and amazing midwives (another one joined the team because I had been in labor so long), and everyone in the room started cheering like crazy and yelling, “You’re complete! You’re complete!”
At that point, we started the long (for me) process of pushing. Just like with labor, I tried every possible position to deliver. We rotated pushing positions for a couple of hours until we realized something was keeping her from descending unless I was flat on my back, which is the worst position for labor. After pushing for a few hours, my doctor recommended a vacuum because I had started to swell. I agreed it was probably for the best.
I remember being asked at this point what my pain level was. I was so incredibly done and ready to have our little one here. My response was, “The seventh circle of hell is my pain level.” They all laughed at my reference to Dante‘s Inferno, and it was a tiny respite and distraction.
He inserted the vacuum, and I pushed (and yelled!!!). The vacuum popped off. We tried one more time, “the ring of fire” began, and out came the most beautiful little girl I had every laid eyes on. She came out with her arm wrapped around her neck which explained what made her final descent so tricky. My doctor said my uterine scar was completely intact! I had some tearing, but I didn’t feel a thing anymore, just love for my daughter. My precious husband promptly fainted as soon as she arrived (we hadn’t slept since Wednesday night and this was Sunday morning) out of relief that she was finally here and we were both fine. She even had a perfect APGAR score after such a long labor!
On a humorous note, guess who checked on me the next morning, covering for my doctor’s rounds? The original doctor who had told me how unwise it would be to VBAC just the day before. It just goes to show that moms often know the right course of action and need to find a doctor who is wise and who believes in them.
As lengthy as my delivery was, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. And if we have the blessing of another child, I would still have another natural VBAC! It was such an empowering experience. God showed up and did what only he could do. I love that only he can get the credit for the success and the ability to get through it all.
No birth is the same, and even among women, we sometimes have the unique privilege of having a variety of experiences and circumstances. Thinking back to the What to Expect movie, and how I have had two of the three experiences in labor: maybe next time I, too, will sneeze once and be done for the day (with a new healthy baby in tow!).
About D:
D is a stay-at-home mommy to two precious blessings. She'd be more than happy to chat with anyone considering a VBAC, simply contact me for her email address.

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