(I recently had a mom mention on my Facebook page that she had just had her baby, a VBA3C and she was SO excited to talk about it. I was excited to hear about it! I sent her some questions that I thought you (and I) would be interested in hearing the answers too.
While vaginal birth after multiple c-sections is not that common, it CAN be done. I am so excited to share this mother's story, wisdom, and love with you! What an amazing journey. Enjoy!)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
-So, I would love for you to first give a brief rundown of your first three births and what you feel like happened and why you had c-sections.
I got pregnant with my first when I was pretty young, 21, and I had done absolutely NO research or anything. We took the Lamaze classes and when they mentioned C-sections I zoned out because of course I wouldn't have one! I had trouble with high blood pressure at the end and was induced at 39 weeks for that reason. They broke my water and I immediately started having intense contractions. Thirty minutes in, I asked for an epidural and five hours later I was having a C-section because of fetal distress. Knowing what I now know, it was a cascade of interventions from the induction on. But I was young and didn't know anything about birth...
Two years later I was pregnant again and had never heard the term VBAC. I'm amazed now that my OB didn't at least give me the option...
Fast forward 5 years (2010) and I'm pregnant with #3. By this time I've heard a lot about VBACs and even have a couple friends going for it, so I started researching and decide I'm definitely going that route. I read a lot and watched a lot of videos, even hired an amazing doula and fully planned on a VBA2C until I transferred to an OB at 30 weeks and she kiboshed it. I gave up the dream, let my doula go and briefly grieved the loss of something I believed I'd never have.
-What made you desire a VBAC after 3 c-sections? This is almost unheard of these days.
When I got pregnant for the 4th time, I vacillated over which birth experience I should choose. My husband wasn't completely on board, and most of my family and friends were frankly in the dark. They had no idea that it even could be done ("You can DO that???!!!" was a common response). But I had just enough friends by this time that were pro-natural birth and quite a few who'd had successful VBACs (not to mention an AMAZING VBAC support group an hour away!) and my final decision was DO IT! One of my hugest supporters is my best friend who's had 3 c-sections and loves them, never has wanted a natural birth... but she recognized it was my dream and I would feel unfulfilled if I didn't take the leap of faith.
-How did you find a care provider who would support you?
I wanted a midwife SO bad. But in our part of the world (Alberta, Canada) the midwives are few and far between... and it simply wasn't possible for me to get in with them. But I did switch to a different doctor/hospital than all 3 of my previous births, which may have helped. My new GP was dubious but finally agreed to a TOL and at 36 weeks when I transferred care to an OB I was so nervous and went in ready to fight. Turns out he was the one who went to bat for me and made it happen in the end. He was amazing!!
-What was labor like for you?
To be honest, it was much much harder than I ever imagined. My sisters all had simple, fairly easy labours so I wrongly assumed that would be my case. I also wasn't prepared for the intense "ring of fire" (she was 10 lbs with a 39 cm head circumference!) but the pushing was a pleasant surprise. I loved it!
-What helped you do this?
So many factors played in, not the least of which is my faith in God and knowing he designed me to birth a baby naturally. My VBAC group was also a huge support and when I had second thoughts I kept thinking about another mom in the group who's going for a VBA3C now in September and how much she was looking to me to pave the way... and I knew I couldn't let her down!
-How did you prepare for your VBA3C?
I hired a doula, read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, watched the BOBB and MBOBB movies, read every VBAMC story and watched every video, went for regular chiropractic care and at the end, acupuncture as well. I found it was so important for me to voice my fears when I had them, usually to my doula or the VBAC group.
-Describe your VBA3C birth story. We would LOVE to hear about it!
At 39 weeks my OB stripped my membranes and I was sure this would be IT! I had a bit of cramping and and a tiny bit of show... 2 days later I started losing my mucous plug and then I thought FOR SURE this was it. It wasn't until 3 days later, as I was at a friend's house, I started having contractions that immediately felt different than the prodromal labour pains I'd been experiencing for the past few weeks. A little sharper, a little more in my back. I went to bed around midnight and by 1:30 I was awake again and pretty sure this was the real thing. I started timing contractions and they were 4-5 minutes apart. I called my doula, Jenn, and told her what was up. She said to get in the bath and see if anything changed, but before I could do that I had a gush of pinkish fluid and she encouraged us to head in since we had an hour drive to the hospital.
We called an aunt to come stay with the boys and left by about 3 am. Hubby drove slightly faster than usual and we made the drive in 45 minutes. Thankfully they set us up in a L&D room right away, no triage! I had 3 awesome nurses who started getting me and the room ready. They were so supportive and excited about my VBA3C! The contractions continued to be intense, mostly in my back, every 3-4 minutes and lasting 1 minute each.
Little did I know at that point that this would go on for close to 12 hours with almost no progress... dilation only to 2 or 3 by early afternoon. Elise was turned slightly, not completely posterior but partially and she was basically stuck for the majority of those first 12 hours. Back labour, one of my worst fears, had become my reality. I changed positions often and eventually got her to move but it was long & hard... going on less than an hour of sleep and a single piece of toast (eaten before we left home) for sustenance. I managed with no pain meds for the first 8 hours or so but finally asked for laughing gas because I simply couldn't function in the state of exhaustion I was in. The gas really helped me focus on my breathing and took the edge off the pain.
By about 3 pm, Elise had turned and we started progressing much more rapidly. I was checked and pronounced officially in active labour, dilated to 4 or 5. The contractions were crazy strong & hard by this point and I found the laughing gas fairly ineffective. I knew I didn't want an epidural but I wasn't handling it very well so I asked for Fentanyl which helped immensely... not to take away the pain, but to help me relax in between contractions.
By probably 4:30 I started feeling the urge to push. They kept telling me to resist, to fight the urge since I'd only been dilated to 5 or 6 half an hour earlier. So I tried not to but the urge was incredibly strong and there was no way I could resist it. I finally yelled, "I can't stop it!" and suddenly the bright lights came on, the gloves were donned and the OB was called. I guess I got through! They checked me and in astonishment said, "you're fully dilated; you can push!"
Pushing was weird for me... other than the "ring of fire" (which was honestly the most intense pain I could ever have imagine... just keeping it real here!) I no longer felt any pain or contractions so I had to just decide when to push. I pushed for 20 minutes and it really was a relief to push after all those hours of nothing... I was finally doing SOMETHING and it felt amazing! The nurses and my doula were great coaches and I'm so thankful for them because I would've been lost without their help! Finally her head emerged and then the weirdest but coolest feeling when her whole body just slipped out like a little fish and she was on my chest!!! I can't begin to describe how that felt! My 4th child but my first one to ever lie on my chest immediately after birth. My husband cut the cord and we spent some lovely time bonding as a family while I got stitched up (3rd degree tear). The biggest surprise (pun intended) was Elise's birth weight of 10 lbs! I was so surprised since all 3 boys were just over 7 lbs...
Natural labour & vaginal delivery were WAY harder than I ever imagined. But I'm so glad I did it. I'm proud of myself for beating the odds and having a (mostly) natural VBA3C, and a 10 lb baby girl at that! I'm quite sure that's what winning a marathon feels like!
- Has the postpartum experience been different than your other births? What about it surprised you?
I tore pretty bad so the pain wasn't that much less than with a C-section, but it was pretty much healed up by 3 weeks. What I found the biggest difference was how much more energy I had right from day one... it was amazing! We were out at a dinner 2 days after the birth... I never would have done that after a C-section. And of course, the psychological differences were out of this world; I'm still on a high!