"If I Can VBAC, I Can Do Anything"- A VBAC Interview

Another installment in our VBAC interview series.  I just love these stories and I hope you do too.  The confidence that comes from a good birth is something every mother deserves.  
-So, I would love for you to first give a brief rundown of your first birth/s and what you feel like happened and why you had a c-section.

Oh where to begin… When I found out I was pregnant I started down the normal path of care: I called my OB, went for an ultrasound, and then every month went and sat in the waiting room for 20 minutes to have a brief 5 minute “any questions?” check up. At about the mid point of my pregnancy I began to seriously question if I wanted to stay with my OB so I set up an appointment at a birth center near my house. I never went back to my OB! We spent the second half of my pregnancy planning a birth center birth with minimal interventions. I would be able to walk around, eat, and do whatever I wanted during labor. That was the plan until I hit my due date and the baby showed no signs of arriving. 41 weeks came and they started to talk induction and then at 42 weeks I was pretty much given an ultimatum: Induction or to be turned over to a high risk OB I’d never met. I was a first time mom and naïvely thought an induction with my midwives would be smoother than a delivery with a high risk OB so I scheduled the induction. What happened next would be your typical cascade of events that occur: They started pitocin, after 12 hours not much was going on, then my water broke during an internal exam (or they broke it for me, still not 100% sure on this one), then came the pitocin contractions from hell followed by the much needed epidural as there was no break from a contraction. Then they way overdid my epidural and told me to “sleep” overnight (like anyone can sleep with numb legs, a back spasm that the epidural doesn’t touch, and a blood pressure cuff going off every 10 minutes). The next morning I was fully dilated but my son was still high up but they had me start pushing anyway. After 2 ½ hours of totally unproductive pushing and being awake and not eating for well over 36 hours I was done and when they recommended a c-section I gave in. I bawled hysterically. And then I was whisked away to the OR and shortly afterwards my son came into the world: 10lbs4oz at 42+5.

When my son was 15 months old I found out I was pregnant again.

-What made you desire a VBAC when they seem so hard to come by in the current obstetric climate?

I refused to have surgery again. My recovery from my c-section was horrible even though my all accounts it was a normal recovery. I suffered severe post partum depression, I was angry that I had surgery, I was frustrated that I couldn’t do something as simple as walk around the grocery store or even laugh without being in pain for weeks. I hated that I had to take prescription painkillers for weeks afterwards to even function. I didn’t just want a VBAC, I wanted a home birth. I refused to go back to a hospital to give birth again unless there was a serious medical need. My husband and I butted heads with the hospital staff over many things after the birth of my son and because of things that occurred I had a much harder time bonding with him. A close friend had a c-section a few years before I did and afterwards had done a lot of research into VBACs and home births and this was where I acquired a lot of my knowledge.

-How did you find a care provider who would support you?

Word of mouth. My friend had already done some investigating and there was only one homebirth midwife in our state that would attend VBAC homebirths and also was considered in network for our insurance. Unfortunately half way through this pregnancy that midwife had her license suspended and I had to scramble to find another care provider who would take me. I pretty much had no options and through word of mouth I found another midwife who attended VBAC home births. It required me to drive 1 to 1 ½ hours each way for my pre natal appointments but it was worth the drive.

-What was labor like for you?

Fast and intense! With my first pregnancy I had been given pitocin so when my contractions really started they went from 0 to 60 really quickly and I had no time to figure out how to handle everything. My second labor started off very similarly and I was afraid at first that I wouldn’t be able to do it. However I hired an amazing doula who supported me and was my rock during everything. From the first contraction to the time my baby was born was only 7 hours and 2 of that was pushing! While it was intense it was also very natural and primal. I heard women say this all the time but until I experienced it myself I didn’t realize just how much so! I reached that point where I was off in my own little world focused entirely on contractions and my body and nothing else around me registered.

-What helped you VBAC?

My husband, my doula, my midwife, and a student midwife

-How did you prepare for your VBAC (was there anything you did differently)?

I surrounded myself with positive birth stories and a positive attitude. I never thought “if” I always thought “when”. I interviewed doulas and hired one whose personality was a perfect fit for mine.

-Describe your VBAC birth story.  We would LOVE to hear about it!

I again went to 42 weeks and was getting tired and felt cooked. I had tried most of the natural induction methods with no success but we knew that this baby would come soon! My last pregnancy picture the baby was so low people were shocked I wasn’t in actual labor! I finally decided to give castor oil a try. I had heard so many conflicting things on it but at 42+ weeks I had reached the point where I would try just about anything! I never felt pressure from my midwife thankfully, she said she would wait if I wanted to wait.

Well the castor oil worked and at 2am I woke up with a few intense contractions that quickly got very close together. I called my midwife and doula and let them know that this was definitely it. Both had been eagerly awaiting my call for weeks! I started off trying to labor in different positions but nothing was helping, the only thing I wanted to do was get into the water. My husband began assembling the birth tub but I wanted water then so I turned on the bath and into the tub I got. I don’t have a huge bath but that warm water felt amazing and helped calm me down. Both my doula and midwife lived an hour away so I knew it would be a little while before I had some support!

I spent quite a long time laboring in the tub. At first I remember the contractions being intense but when they were done I could relax and chat and even joke a bit. My cat took it upon herself to sit in the bathroom with me and lick my hand which I found amusing. Sometime around 5am the birth tub was finally assembled, filled, and ready so I made my way downstairs and into it. I originally wasn’t sure if I wanted a birth tub but I am SO glad I decided to get one as it felt amazing. Transition must have hit shortly afterwards (I never asked what was going on with dilating because I didn’t want to know) because I vividly remember having an absolute breakdown shortly after getting in the tub that I couldn’t do this, I was going to die, I felt like I was going to rip in half, and something must be wrong.

Around 7am I had gone from just breathing and trying to make it through contractions to pushing. Pushing was the only thing that made the pain stop. It still hurt but it was a different bearable kind of pain. I spent about an hour and a half in the pool pushing in various positions trying to encourage the baby to come out but while progress was being made it wasn’t quite enough to get him to come out. My midwife suggested I try a birth chair and at that point I was willing to try ANYTHING to get the baby out.
It wasn’t long before he was crowning and they told me to reach down and feel his hair. It was a totally amazing feeling to reach down and touch his head! I kept crying and telling this baby that it had to come out and was begging my midwives to lie to me and just tell me a few more pushes and it would be over. Little did we know that my son would make his appearance in one big final push. For a long time all that was seen was the tiny top of his head and then in one big contraction out he came. No one was really expecting this so I remember everyone reaching forward quickly to grab him as he came out!

It was so amazing because they instantly handed him to me and I just sat there, stunned, holding him. I didn’t even know it was a him at first as we had opted not to find out the gender of the baby! I sat there holding my baby and my husband and I were both shocked when we discovered it was a boy as we both had sworn it would be a girl. But there he was! All 10lbs12oz of him! We also quickly discovered he came out forehead first!

Since my very large baby made his appearance so quickly it meant I had a very nasty 2nd degree tear that was almost a 3rd degree so my midwife felt I should go to a local hospital to get sewn up which I agreed to. We didn’t rush off however and spent time bonding as a family, nursing, cuddling, and laughing about how huge he was!

- Has the postpartum experience been different than your other birth/s?  What about it surprised you?

The post partum experience with my VBAC was like night and day! People were shocked at how I was moving around and sitting with a 2nd degree tear but I kept pointing out that it was way easier than a c-section recovery! The day after my birth I was physically exhausted and sore and achy like I had just run a marathon! Also the healing from the tear took a bit longer than I had anticipated but I bounced back to my normal self much quicker. I was up, walking around, and going out. I threw my sons 2nd birthday party when my baby was a month old, which included baking a cake from scratch and setting up and cleaning! At 4 weeks post partum with my c-section I was still barely shuffling around the house.  I did placenta encapsulation this time as well which I think also helped with my post partum hormones. I also bonded with my youngest so much quicker because he was never taken from me. With the exception of the brief hospital trip to get sewn up he was at my side 24/7 for the first few weeks. My milk was in within a few days this time and breastfeeding was so much easier. He latched on right away with no problems and we never had any of the issues I had with my first son. I also feel more confident about myself after my VBAC. I have never had a high level of self confidence however all of a sudden I feel great about myself. I think sometimes “if I can VBAC, I can do anything!”