Vaginal Birth After FOUR (Count 'Em- 4!) C-Sections- A VBAC Interview
Ummm....WOW. I don't think I have ever heard of another VBA4C before. But this mom did it, she did it in a hospital, and she did it beautifully! I love this story and it inspired me and it would inspire ANYBODY. Read the whole thing- it is so totally worth it.
I would love for you to first give a brief rundown of your first four births and what you feel like happened and why you had c-sections.
I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to start this story. I’ve been trying to find the words to write this for over a decade. I really have to start this at the beginning. After a lot of contemplation I’ve decided that I could give you straight answers to just the questions you asked me, but then I realized that by doing that I would miss out on the opportunity to really let me tell you who I am and why I am here, right now, about to explain how I came to be the person who wrote this VBA4C story. You see, this has been a journey for me, and this journey started long before the birth of my first child. I feel it is necessary for you to understand where I have come from in order to understand how I have come to be who I am today.
And so I begin…
I was 15 and I met the love of my life. I knew before we even had our first conversation that he was going to be the one I married. When I was 16 I was I was diagnosed with cancer on my cervix. When I was 17 I underwent a series of treatments for this, and I thank God that it was short term and curable. I feel this is an important detail in this story because not very many people realize that when I say my husband has been there for me through it all and has always been my rock, he really has been.
However, I was informed by a doctor, I really don’t recall which doctor it was, that I have a tipped uterus and severe scar tissue on my cervix as a result of the treatment. Because of this I was told that I would not be able to conceive a child, and if I did, I more than likely would never be able to carry it to term. Despite this news I still carried a strong desire to not only have children, but to have a large family and I never gave up hope. My husband and I married just a year after I graduated high school.
My husband and I made the mutual decision not to use birth control after we were married and whatever children, if any, that we were able to have would be a true blessing. On our one year anniversary we announced we were pregnant with our first child. We were ecstatic! This news came much faster than either of us ever thought possible! I had a rather boring, uneventful pregnancy. Some issues with my sciatic nerve, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was given a due date of February 7, 2002. I had very erratic menstrual cycles and never did pin down an actual due date.
I literally had every intervention possible with my first delivery. I had my membranes stripped several times, they used gels and pills to encourage my cervix to dilate, and I soon found myself hooked up to a Pitocin drip. My body responded to contractions but no such luck in getting me to dilate past a two. About 18 hours later they broke my water, hoping it would encourage labor to pick up and continue on its own. It never did. 12 hours after my water was broke it was decided by my doctor that an emergency c-section was necessary.
February 28, 2002 my son was born. 8 pounds, 4.5 ounces and perfect. I was exhausted. They kept my baby in the nursery because they thought it was best for me. He struggled to nurse. Little did I know that circumcising my son would change my outlook on birth. He had an allergic reaction to the medication given to him to dull the pain. He was flown to a NICU an hour and a half away. I include these details about my first delivery because I feel it’s important for people to understand the unraveling of events that followed.
I was released from the hospital, not even 12 hours after an emergency c-section to be with my son. I was never given the proper instructions on how to care for myself. I was never prescribed pain medication. I did not know who would be taking my staples out or who would be doing it. I left the hospital clueless. I had only my husband to get me through the healing process. The NICU nurses were fantastic about helping me to get my baby to nurse and I was finally able to do so a week after he was born. My milk never came in until then so thankfully I never dried up. When I think back to that experience I wonder how I managed to walk and do all I did while my baby was in the NICU for 11 days with no pain killers.
All I can say is I never left his side. I was there all day and night until we brought him home. I never thought about the pain, not for long at least. My baby was my only concern. There are details that I am sure I have missed and I will probably wonder later on why I didn’t include them. Just know that during that time my faith in God was restored. I began to struggle with post-partum issues but for some reason figured I should just be thankful my baby was alive and ok, so I really had no reason to complain. My son and I didn’t develop a very good nursing bond. It was a struggle from the beginning. My milk took forever to come in. The nurses in the NICU were fantastic and we eventually got it all figured out. However, I let society get to me. A family member compared me to a cow and I quit nursing at 4 months. It broke my heart. I was determined to better next time, and I did.
On our sons first birthday we announced to our families that we were having another baby. My first two were fairly close together. I was still pretty traumatized with the events of my first child’s birth.
I had been told after the birth of my first child that I would be able to attempt a VBAC if I had more children. I had yet another by the book pregnancy, actually better than the first, no sciatic nerve pain! It was agreed it would be a VBAC. Towards the end of my pregnancy I mentioned I was a little scared. I never said I didn’t want a VBAC. Well, the doctor then used every scare tactic about VBAC’s and basically talked me out of it. My second son was born by planned C-section on September 30, 2003, 8 pounds 10 oz. and perfect.
He latched on perfectly and we had a wonderful nursing experience for the next 21 months. I didn’t realize how bad I was struggling with post-partum issues until after his birth. You see, I felt like a total and complete failure. How could I be good mother if I couldn’t stand up and declare I wanted a VBAC? I struggled and I went on anti-depressants.
When I became pregnant the third time I asked for a VBAC. The OB I was seeing told me he wouldn’t do it and that no doctor in this town would. I didn’t question him. I still strongly desired a vaginal birth but felt shut down. I woke up one morning thinking I had wet the bed. I called my doctor; they did a test, and said I really did wet the bed because my water hadn’t broken. (Talk about embarrassing!)
From this point forward I was uncomfortable and tired. Some back ache, but nothing that I would complain about. A couple days later I went to my regular OB appointment. I had a cervical check to discover I was dilated to a stretchy 4/5. He sent me home and I was confused. This was the doctor who said he would never let me VBAC. So I called when I got home and they scheduled an immediate C-section. What was I thinking? If I had never called I would have had her vaginally with little to no labor pain! This is the guilt that filled my mind after her birth. As they began my C-section the doctor announced I was dilated to a 9.
That is what I recall as my biggest disappointment from her birth. She was born with an infection. We ended up being flown to the NICU again. She was six weeks early and spent 9 days in the NICU. She was released weighing 4 pounds 13 ounces, tiny and perfect. We went on to have an interesting nursing relationship. A persistent staph infection, plugged ducts, mastitis, and 10 months later, we called the relationship off. That is the second thing about her entrance into our world that disappointed me.
When I announced I was pregnant a fourth time people assumed I had just given up on having a vaginal delivery. They could not have been more wrong.
I found a supportive doctor an hour and a half away. There was one doctor in his practice that was not supportive of VBAC’s and I was told by all the midwives that as long as I never seen the one doctor I would get my VBAC. I went into labor on my own on a Sunday night. The next morning we packed up and headed to the hospital and hour and a half away to have our baby. I had a cervical check only to discover I was at a 1, and to make matters worse, I walked in and discovered the doctor on call was the one that was very against VBAC’s.
I was disappointed. He made me sign paper after paper making me feel like I was crazy for doing this. I was extremely uncomfortable. I was having back labor. I was allowed to labor but I wasn’t progressing at first. I took a hot shower to relax. I got out of the shower and felt a drop and sudden relief. They checked me again and I was at a 6. I was so excited! Then I stalled for about an hour. I couldn’t keep the monitor on me very well. I was carrying low, I was uncomfortable, and I was huge! He kept telling me that every time the monitor went off it was because my baby was distress. I knew I was having trouble keeping the stupid thing on me, but after so many hours, a laboring Mom gets tired and breaks down.
They wanted to do an internal monitor; I didn’t want my water broke. He eventually convinced me my baby was in danger and I went in for a c-section. As they wheeled me into the room after the epidural kicked in I hated myself so bad. I was so disappointed in myself. I cried through the whole thing. My fourth baby and third son was born weighing 9 pounds 2 ounces. There wasn’t anything wrong with him. He was perfect. Charts later revealed that there never was fetal distress. They stated that I opted for an elective c-section. That was not the case. I was heartbroken.
I had spent the majority of the last decade depressed. I had four beautiful children but felt like a failure of a mother. I had 5 miscarriages along the way and these only led me to believe that God was punishing me for whatever it was that I had done that was so terrible. After my fourth birth I became very ill. For an entire year I spent most of my days sitting on a toilet or sleeping. I underwent a colonoscopy to discover some colitis and after some further doctoring I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I had lost a lot of weight and my periods had stopped altogether. I really thought I was going to die at one point. I even planned everything with my husband in case I actually did. My health started to turn around but my periods never returned, and I most certainly NEVER imagined I would end up pregnant again, but I did and I took it as my sign that God healed me and kept me here for a reason.
I took steps to ensure my health and kept my pregnancy a secret for quite a while because I already got so much grief for having 4 children. I also kept it quiet because of my fear of losing another baby. I spotted in the beginning of my pregnancy pretty heavily so I spent most of the first 15 weeks on bed rest. At 20 weeks we had an ultrasound, our fifth baby, and fourth boy was perfectly healthy and I hadn’t spotted in just over a month, so we announced our pregnancy. (I was very lucky to not show with any of my pregnancies until after 20 weeks).
Even with announcing our pregnancy, we kept all the details pretty quiet. I was not going to let anyone talk me out of my decision. I was having a VBAC and there was no changing my mind. I didn’t even tell my doctor about my decision at first. By the way, I went to a completely different doctor with this pregnancy. 8 weeks before my due date he announced his surgery dates and was telling me when he thought it would be best for me to come in. The date he chose happened to be my mother’s birthday.
That was the last straw for me. It wasn’t anything personal towards my mother at all; it really just felt wrong to me. I realize looking back how ridiculous that sounds, but I had a severe issue with choosing my kids birthdates, because that’s not how it’s supposed to happen. In my mind if a child was to choose to come on someone else’s birthday, then fine, but I was not going to choose it.
They deserve their own day.
I flat out told him I wasn’t having surgery and I would deliver at home, unassisted if he didn’t support my decision. I really didn’t want to deliver at home because I’m not dumb, I know that after 4 c-sections there are risks. He was surprised, took a very brief moment to discuss the risks, seen I was determined and never mentioned c-section again. Is this the appropriate place to say I love him? Because I do.
-What made you desire a VBAC after 4 c-sections? This is almost unheard of these days.
I can’t explain what made me desire this so badly. I have no idea where the drive came from. What I can tell you is I was not proud of the depressed parent I was to the first four. I can tell you that I was ashamed of all the c-sections. I felt broken and worthless. I felt like my body was deformed. I also felt that going under the knife again was more risky than a vaginal delivery. Doctors are ready to jump and tell you the risks of a VBAC but they forget to tell you the risks of repeat c-sections.
-How did you find a care provider who would support you?
I don’t know that I gave him much choice, but I also knew from others around town that he was VBAC friendly so I think he may have been supportive anyway, but with four previous c-sections, I was careful.
-What was labor like for you?
I went on a massive cleaning spree. I cleaned and re-cleaned things that were in no way dirty. I planned Thanksgiving dinner at my house with close to 75 guests. My doctor thought I was crazy! But I did it. Then I slept all weekend long. Monday morning I had my regular OB appointment and the doctor took one look at me and said I was really low and it would be any day. I was in labor that night. I was able to manage it pretty well most of the night. 5 am the next day I went to the hospital and found out, just like my last birth I was only at a 1. I was disappointed but determined not to let it get to me. I don’t know if I was just lucky or what but it happened to be pretty busy on the OB floor that day so they pretty much left me alone. I was very happy about this.
I said a silent prayer, started to dilate and then labor took off real fast. I stalled at 6 again and I was afraid that I would be talked into giving up again. I put my hand on c-section scar and found some sort of inner peace. I knew everything was going to be ok. I felt it stretching a little and remembered reading about how some woman who have a VBAC describe this stretching feeling. (I’m thankful for my research because I might have gotten really scared at this point had I not been prepared or it because it does feel different than a contraction).
My water broke and the nurse did another cervical check after this. As her hand was inside me I was literally dilating as fast as she could rattle the numbers off to me. I felt him moving down and remember thinking it felt like an alien inside me. I loved that feeling! I could feel my baby moving down. I remember at one time that I stopped and looked around the room. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. The doctor said it was time to push and I pushed and realized I really had no idea what the heck I was doing! My fifth kid and I had no clue how to push!
The doctor looked at me and told me he would walk me through it. With his direction I had two really good pushes, he looked up at me and said that the baby’s head was down far enough that there was no turning back, even if I asked for a c-section, he probably couldn’t give me at this point. It was the only time he mentioned c-sections since our discussion in his office and it was what I needed to hear for motivation. I pushed with all my might with one last push my son was born at 11:05 am on November 29, 2011. My VBA4C was a success and I was on top of the world! I succeeded! Nothing could take that feeling away from me. For the first time I held my baby, covered in vernex, nursed almost immediately after birth, rather than hours or days later, and I immediately felt whole again. I was a woman, a complete woman who had a goal and succeeded.
-What helped you do this?
Without a doubt my number one supporter was my fantastic husband. He’s believed in every step of the way.
-How did you prepare for your VBA4C?
I researched VBAC’s more than anything I ever researched for any of my college education.
- Has the postpartum experience been different than your other births? What about it surprised you?
I’m not, and never have been a failure as a parent. I know this now. Postpartum depression is nothing to be messing with. I am very happy to report that my baby is 8 months and I have yet to experience the sadness and worthlessness I felt with the first four births. I was able to get up and walk to the bathroom as soon as I delivered. I wasn’t embarrassed about a nurse cleaning up a bloody mess underneath of me because I was unable to take care of myself. My milk came faster than I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t have to worry about infection in my incision like I had with my first. What couldn’t have been better?