Tuesday, October 15, 2013

{Becoming Mother II} - A Natural VBAC Birth Story

In honor of Baby #3's impending arrival, we are launching another {Becoming Mother} blog series. As my own labor and delivery quickly approaches, I find it encouraging to immerse myself in childbirth stories. I love reminding myself that women birth every day, that they survive and that they rejoice in being a mother when it's all over. 

As always, this is not to promote a particular type of birth. These stories are intended to be more of a picture into "what it was really like" for these mothers in their various birth settings. I hope they inspire you to marvel in awe at God's perfect plan of childbirth.

As always, you can check out  my hospital birth story with Cannonmy birthing center birth story with Cason and my reflections on both deliveries. I will be back at the end of this series with some of my favorite birth stories from fellow bloggers, as well as my thoughts in preparation for childbirth the third time around.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Amy. I met Amy way back in College Station at Danny's and my adopted mom's Sunday lunches. Our adopted mom, Susan, is Amy's aunt. We've kept in touch over the years via Facebook and I recently joined her MOPs group here in Allen, Texas. Amy has three young children and has encouraged me on more than one occasion that I can handle this upcoming stage of life just fine!

Eric and I have wanted a big family for a long time and this continues to be confirmed to us with each new baby.  With the birth of each of my children came a new birth experience and with each of them I found myself learning and gearing up in different ways! Drew was my first born and  I had the perfect pregnancy with him.  I experienced NO morning sickness, and NO problems at all EXCEPT he was born seven weeks early, at 33 weeks.  Despite the efforts of the doctors, when I started having contractions with Drew, they could not stop them.  In the days leading up to his delivery, I was hospitalized and given all kinds of different medicine to slow down the contractions.  One of the medicines they gave me was magnesium. It was the worst of all, causing me to throw up.  Since I was medicated so heavily, I only remember bits and pieces of the story leading up to the delivery.  The doctor decided we were not going to be able to postpone Drew’s birth, even though I was not anywhere close to full-term.  As delivery time approached, Drew’s fetal heart rate was not varied enough, and the doctor feared a vaginal birth may lead to an emergency c-section.  She felt like it was in our best interest to deliver him with a caesarean section. Although this was not my preference, I trusted her judgement and wanted the best for my baby.   I was wheeled into a cold, bright, sterile room operating room.  I was trying my to hardest to just breathe, not throw up (again) and stay calm while everything was happening so quickly.  Drew was born weighing 4lb 15oz.  He spent three weeks in the NICU growing and learning how to eat on his own.

Although we were overcome with joy (and surprise) to meet him, I did not enjoy the experience of a c-section.  To me, the procedure felt invasive, and I felt disconnected from my baby and Eric. I also felt like I missed out on something special by not being able to take an active part in the delivery of my child.  I knew I wanted to try to do something different for my next baby. 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, Annalise, I knew we were going to try to do a vaginal birth or v-bac, after a previous c-section. I felt very apprehensive during my pregnancy with knowing she could make her debut as early as her brother and we could have another premature baby.  I also felt nervous about trying a v-bac because it was a risk and may not work.   When I went into labor with Annalise I was so grateful that we could be excited about the contractions instead of trying to stop them.  When we got the hospital, I was already dilated to 4 cm and not long after that was given an epidural to help with the pain.  Eric and I enjoyed the company of our families as I comfortably labored with the epidural.  Our doctor let us know when it was time to push.  At the first contraction he simply watched me give this pushing thing a try.  He could clearly see that I was not working hard enough at it, and told me for the next one to really put some muscle behind it and PUSH! That was all I needed to hear.  Even though I couldn’t feel the pain of the contractions, I did feel the pressure.  After 45 minutes of pushing we welcomed Annalise Brooke, a full term baby at 37 weeks!

I was so much more  happy with my birth experience with Annalise.  I loved staying in the labor and delivery room.  I loved being able to push and do my part and I loved not having to be stitched up from a c-section.

With my 3rd baby, Cole, it wasn’t until I was pretty far along in my pregnancy that I decided on giving a natural v-bac a whirl.  Once again I was feeling nervous about this choice, but I wanted to give it a try because not only would I gain a full birth experience (in my opinion), I would be able to do my part fully with no medication blocking my mama instincts. Plus, I felt like I am a pretty tough gal and I could do it! 

I woke early that Sunday morning, July 14, 2013 to the sound of rain pitter-pattering outside - and my abdomen contracting. This was my third baby, and at 36 ½ weeks, and a history of pre-term labor, we knew this baby could come anytime.

About 5:30 AM, I started timing contractions since they felt frequent enough to jot down.  At first they were somewhere between  six to ten minutes apart, which was often enough to pay attention to, but still hard to tell if it was real labor.  I didn’t want to be one of these ladies who shows up to the hospital with my hopes up only to be sent home.

Since I had been released off of bed rest, we had all intentions of going to church for the first time in a long time. So I got up that morning and started making breakfast and proceeding on as normal for our Sundays. As I got up and moved around the kitchen the contractions slowed down or stopped, causing me to believe that it must have been be false labor, but by the time we sat down to eat breakfast, I became more convinced this was the real thing.  We started getting excited and couldn’t wait to call our families to tell them that today was going to be the day.  A change in weather seems to have a history of sending me into labor, so we jokingly mentioned the change in barometric pressure when we called them.

I quickly realized that I needed to start getting things ready to go to the hospital.

I mentally reviewed my to-do list: take a shower, get dressed, finish packing my hospital bag (some things just can’t go in until the end), print seven shipping labels for Pink Pear Tree gifts that need to be shipped, and arrange for someone to come over to watch Drew and Annalise.

Danny and Susan arrived to help out with the kids around 10:30, and by this point contractions were strong enough I needed to lie down and focus. After another hour, we left for the Presbyterian Hospital in Allen. 

Dr. Andrew Shimer was on call that weekend, and we called to let him know we were on our way.   When we arrived at the hospital Eric had a nurse get a wheelchair for me, and they took us up the 3rd floor.

Holly, the nurse, took us to the waiting room. After asking routine questions, Holly examined my cervix and found I was dilated to 4. She moved me to Room 12, one of the newly renovated rooms, in the Labor and Delivery Department. 

I also had decided in the last month that we wanted to have a natural v-bac birth - with the natural birth being  new to me. We gave the staff our birth plan, and they helped us settle in for a while. During this time I tried several different positions for laboring, I already knew that lying on my side was pretty comfortable.  I also tried sitting Indian style, but found it hard to get comfortable and breathe through the contractions. The nurses brought in a ball, and we tried laboring on it. I was able to sit, rock back and forth, and lean forward, finding some balance during the contractions.

During this time, Eric read me Scriptures that we had prepared in advance on fear, anxiety, and comfort, while Scripture Lullabies played on the iphone.   This was one of many of my favorite parts of the birth experience.

Calling on God by reading His word, and tapping into His power during such a physically painful time, was one of the most spiritually moving experiences of my life.

After about two hours I was checked again and had only progressed to a 4.5.  Dr. Shimer came in and talked to us about breaking my water.  He told us that it would help the labor progress faster - but it would also help my contractions be stronger.  Because I had only progressed ½ a centimeter, we decided to let him do it.  Once my water was broken, I could tell almost immediately that the contractions had changed.  They were harder.  I rolled over to my side, and that would be last time I moved before we had Cole.  Eric stepped away to the bathroom shortly after this, and I felt another contraction coming on.  This one was so strong, I had a difficult time breathing and focusing the way I’d learned. I began to feel like I didn’t know what to do. I did know I needed Eric because the labor was quickly becoming more than I could handle alone. 

I called out to Eric several times, and the 3rd time he heard me and came running.  Eric held my hand and I couldn’t really talk.  He encouraged me to breathe deep, but the contractions seemed to be right on top of each other.  I felt the urge to bear down and found some sense of relief that way.  I remember thinking, I can’t do this, if this is what 5 feels like, I will not be able to do the transitional phase (moving from 7-10 cm). But I couldn’t even get those words out, the pain was too intense.

I really think God gave me the words when I uttered “something is happening,” because that is not what I was thinking.  I was thinking, I can’t do this, and this is awful, but God gave me the right words. Holly, who’d been standing there fanning me since my water broke, asked if I wanted her to check me again. Once again, I couldn’t muster any response in my attempt at focus and survive through contractions. Eric told them to go ahead and check, and they said I was ready to push. Holly told another nurse to go get the doctor.  It only took about five minutes for me to move from a 4 ½ to a 10!  When Dr. Shimer came in, they told me to roll from my side to my back so I could start pushing.  Because the contractions were so strong and close together, it took two or three more contractions before I could move. Dr. Shimer looked at me and said in an all-business kind of way, “when you roll over, we are going to have this baby.”   He told me to take a deep breath in, hold it, and push until we counted to ten.  I had Eric’s hand on my left, and in the heat of the moment, I reached out and grabbed Holly’s hand with my right. With each contraction I would push three times for ten seconds.  It only took three contractions before we had a baby.  Somehow the labor was done - and there was baby Cole!  At 36 ½ weeks, he was my largest baby at 7lb and 19 inches long.  Due to Cole’s rapid decent through the birth canal, he came out with some bruising around his little mouth, feet, and hands, but he was perfect. 
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I wanted a natural v-bac birth, but at the end I didn’t know if I could do it.  Praise the Lord, the end didn’t last very long at all.  All of our families, who were still at home, couldn’t believe it when we let them know he was here.  The last update they had heard was that I was only at a 4, so baby Cole beat them to the hospital.
I can definitely see God’s hand in Cole’s pregnancy and delivery - through the special (not so random) people He put me in contact with about natural births and natural v-bacs, and the help from my mom and mother-in-law while I was on bed rest. God gave me awesome nurses in the hospital, and He gave me the correct words to speak at the end of the labor when the pain was taking over. I praise Him for these things and the many answered prayers.
Now the question we must ask is, would I do it again? I think I would.  I feel like I did finally get my full-birth-experience by doing the natural v-bac.  I have a huge sense of accomplishment and since I was walking around within an hour or two of delivery, my recovery time was practically non-existent.
I would tell other women considering doing a natural vaginal birth, or natural v-bac, to do your homework in advance so you know what to expect and how to handle the contractions.  I followed the Bradley Method of childbirth, and used Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way.  Talk to other women who have been through natural childbirth.  I found loads of support from ladies who had already gone through this.  Talk to your spouse and make sure both of you are on the same page about childbirth since he is your partner in this experience. Finally, pray, pray, pray! God will give you all the strength and direction to know if natural childbirth is the right choice for you.  Best of luck!

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