An Accidental Home VBAC- VBAC Story

So wonderful!  I love these accidental home births.  But my favorite part of this interview is the end- Giving birth is SUPPOSED to make women feel like they can do ANYTHING- not like they or their body failed.  That is the beauty of empowered birth.
(You can find more VBAC interviews on the blog.)

-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.

1  My first birth ended with an emergency c-section.  I know we sometimes villainize doctors a bit, but in this case, I think the c-section was mostly my own fault for not coming to the birth better prepared.  My Mom always had very easy deliveries, so I just sort of assumed that mine would be easy, too.  But the truth is that I was terrified of becoming a mother (I was never one of those people who just loved babies, so I was very nervous that I wouldn't know what to do with my baby once he arrived).  So with each contraction, it seemed like I tensed up more and more and just felt miserable and scared-- both of the upcoming pain, and also of the upcoming responsibilities!  So I went to the hospital way sooner than I should have, simply because I was anxious.  And then I couldn't bear to let my husband even leave my side to get any of our birth stuff that we'd brought along (soothing music, birthing ball, etc, etc).  I just sat there feeling scared.  And in pain.  And got the epidural pretty fast. 

And once I had the epidural, and the doctor asked if they could break my water, I told him to go ahead-- I hadn't read enough to know any better.  In hindsight, I think that was my biggest mistake.  I dilated 4 cm in about an hour after that, and my theory (which has never been confirmed by any doctor, so it may be completely incorrect) was that my baby dropped too fast in that hour, and didn't turn properly.  So he was face-up, which makes for a lot more pain.  The nurse announced that I was ready to push, and I obliged very obediently, but I even though I hurt a lot by this point, I couldn't feel what I was doing or where I was pushing at all.  She said I was a good pusher and predicted we'd have our baby in no time, but after 40 minutes of pushing, I was exhausted, and the baby just wasn't coming out.  We'd see his head, and then he'd retract back in again.  At this point, the doctor said that he was probably face-up, and that was why he was getting stuck.  And because there had been meconium in my amniotic fluid and my baby's heart rate was fluctuating poorly, he recommended a c-section.  The doctor was very kind and not at all pushy about the whole thing.  He simply explained that he was worried about the baby and that he also was worried that in order to push him out, I'd probably tear very badly.  I asked if I could keep pushing a bit longer, and he said that was fine.  (During this time I was also given oxygen, in hopes that it would help my baby's heart rate.)  I pushed once more and called it quits.  Despite the epidural, I hurt all over and was exhausted.

I cried.  My husband grabbed my face and assured me that I hadn't failed and that everything would be just fine and told me over and over again how proud he was of me.  But I felt so sad that I couldn't deliver my baby.  The c-section went just fine, and they let me give my son, Bentley, a quick kiss before Daddy took him out to the hall to wait for me to get put back together.  I found out later that my doctor was also a gastroenterology surgeon or something-- in any case, lots of ultrasound techs have commented that I have a really nice c-section scar, so at least he did that well!  But the recovery from the c-section was hard-- just laughing and walking hurt so much those first couple of weeks!  I knew I didn't want to go through that again if I could help it.

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

  When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I began to read everything I could find on VBACs (which was hard to do-- although a lot of books mention them, there are very few books specifically about VBAC, and they're hard to find!).  Not only was I hoping for an easier labor and recovery, I also was very worried about how bad it would be-- psychologically-- for my now 17-month-old Bentley if his mommy stopped picking him up the moment his little sister arrived on the scene!  So I vowed to do everything in my power to be able to deliver this next baby without any surgeries!

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

  I still had the same insurance, Kaiser Permanente, but I was very fortunate in that they are quite supportive of VBACs.  In fact, Kaiser was even mentioned in several of the books I read because they are one of the few (and earliest) major health insurance companies that support VBAC.  So that was a huge blessing, since I doubt we could have afforded to look elsewhere.

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

 All the reading I did really helped.  My favorite book was The Big Book of Labor, by Erica Lyon (I recommend it to EVERY pregnant woman I know!)-- it talks about a lot of different ways to manage your pain, and I really loved her ideas and her way of presenting the information-- she's very well informed, and the book doesn't feel like it has an agenda it's trying to push on you.  After reading through her book twice, and also gleaning ideas from Ina May Gaskin, and inspiration from a book of VBAC stories, I wrote down all the ways that I would work to cope with pain, starting with watching a movie, and going on to vocalizing, hot showers, and all that stuff.  I felt like I had a battle plan this time!

-What was labor like for you?

 Labor was awesome.  And short.  My doctor had guessed that my labor would last about 6 hours.  I noticed labor starting that morning as we were getting out the door to church, and sat there timing contractions the whole two hours (for you Mormons out there, it was our stake conference!), almost always five to seven minutes apart.  I got home, began a load of laundry, started packing my hospital bag, and called all my family to tell them that I was in labor.  I felt the opposite from my first birth-- where before I'd been scared to have a baby to take care of, this time around I knew that I could take care of my baby, and I knew that I would love her.  I could hardly wait to meet her! (Continued in next question.)

-Describe your VBAC birth story.  We would LOVE to hear about it!
But then labor completely stopped!  I was so disappointed.  We walked around to try to kick-start it back up again, but got nothing.  So then I had to call everyone back and tell them that I wasn't in labor after all.  So instead I sat around reading a book.  My husband went out and did his home teaching and attended a youth fireside (more Mormon lingo, sorry to all you who aren't members!).  And we went to bed early.  Every hour I would have one contraction that woke me up, but other than that I slept pretty well.  Until one in the morning, when they started back up again and I couldn't sleep.  So I wandered around our apartment, eating a bowl of cereal, reading my book, doing whatever I could without waking anyone up.  I tried to time the contractions myself, but I kept getting confused doing it-- either I couldn't see the clock well, or I'd lose count.  My guess, now, is that they were painful enough and I was tired enough that my brain just couldn't quite process it all.  (Tip: if you're in too much pain to time your contractions, you might be getting pretty far along in your labor!)

Finally at two in the morning I woke up my husband and told him he should call his parents and ask them to come and watch Bentley so we would be able to go to the hospital.  Craig's parents live about an hour away, so I figured that should be pretty good timing for it all.  The Big Book of Birth recommended you wait to go to the hospital until your contractions were three minutes apart, one minute long, and have been that way for one hour.  Everything I had read said that the best way to have a successful VBAC was to not go to the hospital too early, so I was bound and determined to stay home as long as I possibly could.

While Craig was on the phone, I got in the shower, which was GREAT.  Who knew that hot water could feel so good?  The contractions were still getting stronger, but in between them it was so relaxing!  The problem, then, was forcing myself to get back OUT of the shower.  Each time I'd be about to step out, another contraction would come, so I'd tell myself that once I'd calmed down from this one, I'd get out...  It took running out of hot water to make that actually happen!

So finally I dragged myself out of the shower, but by this time everything was getting pretty painful and I was getting nervous.  Each contraction left me really shaky and I told Craig I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to handle a natural childbirth after all; I felt like I was barely handling the pain as it was, and figured I was probably only half-way there still.  I'd probably need to get an epidural after all.  Looking back now, I was probably in transition and just didn't know it.  In the meantime, we went ahead and called the nurse to make sure it was okay that I headed to the hospital (they want to make sure you don't come in too early).  As I was talking to her I had a contraction and she listened to me whimper through it and asked me some questions-- how long had they been like that, how frequent were the contractions, was I feeling an urge to push...  All that stuff.  Finally, she said it fine for me to come; she would just call the doctor and tell him to expect us (especially since this was a VBAC delivery).

We hung up the phone and with the next contraction, as I was sitting on the birthing ball, I felt the urge to push.

I told Craig and his response was immediate: "Don't push!  We have to go to the hospital!"

"But I have to!" was all I could say back.  (Women who've had babies will understand that logic; I don't think it makes much sense to anyone else.)  I wasn't exactly thinking about what it meant that I was pushing, I just knew that I needed to.  And somewhere in the back of my mind was the realization that there was NO WAY I could make it through these contractions seat-belted into a car for twenty minutes, driving over speed bumps and stuff!  I'm not sure what I thought I could do about that; I just knew I didn't want to get into a car.

I think I was looking for an excuse to get to push or something, but I announced that maybe I just had to go to the bathroom, and hurried to the toilet.  Craig, smart man that he is, followed me and promptly announced that he had just seen the baby's head and was calling 911. I got into the bathtub and sat there rocking on my hands and knees, trying not to push too much, but still sort of pushing (I think I was hoping Craig wouldn't notice then or something...).  While Craig was talking to the dispatcher, the nurse called back to say that the doctor said we could come to the hospital.  Craig told her he could see the baby's head and was talking with 911 and she wished us luck.

The dispatcher suggested I lie down on my left side and try to breathe through the contractions.  That seemed like about the dumbest thing I'd ever heard, so I just ignored it.  (Who can lay down on their left side in a bathtub as tiny as ours was anyway???)  As Craig explained that the baby was beginning to crown, the dispatcher said he'd send two ambulances.

They arrived remarkably quickly.  I think they were there within five or ten minutes of Craig calling.  I don't really remember that time waiting, but apparently Craig spent the time wandering around the apartment wondering where he could find clean shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord with and trying to not hyperventilate.  My poor freaked out husband!  Anyway, when they arrived, a whole mess of EMTs, most of them volunteers, stormed into our little bedroom and told me that I needed to stop pushing so they could get me out of the tub and into my bed. I asked why I couldn't just push right there, but they said there wasn't room for them to catch the baby.  I'm not sure I really understood their logic (how much room did they need???), but they helped me to my feet between contractions and got me to the bed.  All I had time to do was to kneel on the bed and Craig announced that the head was out.  Even with him saying that, I don't think I really believed him until I heard little Kendra start crying.  Craig says it took her a minute to cry, but it was a good healthy cry when it came!  She was born at 3:13am!

I flopped onto my stomach in relief and laid there waiting until they had cut the cord before I could squirm around enough to actually look at my baby girl.  Then they handed her to me (after Craig had wiped her down a bit—I don't think the EMTs knew how to do that!), wrapped me up in gauze and threw a hospital gown over me (I think I'd been wearing nothing but a bra, but I'm really not sure now).  No one had had time to bring the stretcher up the stairs, so I just walked down (someone took the baby then) and climbed onto it myself.  Then I got my baby back and they strapped me in and wheeled us both out to the ambulance.  My first time riding in one!  (And it was a much happier experience than being wheeled to the Operating Room to have the c-section with Bentley!)

Meanwhile Craig was frantically calling his parents, trying to figure out where they could be.  He had gotten Bentley up (who apparently had heard all the noise, as he was standing in his crib when Craig went into his room) and was ready to follow us to the hospital.  Just before he could do that, his parents answered their phone; they were pulling into our apartment complex right then (I think it's probably lucky they didn't show up just a few minutes earlier!).  He told them not to be nervous when they saw the ambulances and they asked if those were for me.  "Well," said Craig, "they're for Alanna and Kendra."  To which they gasped and said, "SHE'S HERE???"

The ambulance ride was fabulous.  Three of the EMTs sitting in the back with me had never helped out with a birth before and they were all stoked, taking pictures on their cell phones and just generally as excited and happy as I was about the whole thing.  I don't think any Labor and Delivery nurses would be that enthusiastic!  It was fun feeling like we were all the luckiest people in the world right then.

The hospital was completely the opposite, and it was sort of upsetting.  I'd been taken to a different hospital than where I'd planned on delivering, and one where my insurance isn't accepted, so I wasn't on any of their records.  So the first thing the doctor asked me was if I had been receiving "any pre-natal care AT ALL?"  I've never been so offended in my life!  I never missed a single doctor's appointment with Kendra OR with Bentley and here she is, assuming I'm some sort of hippie-nut who hasn't taken care of myself or my baby! Anyway, I tried to explain that the plan was to deliver at a hospital but the problem was that my baby came too quickly.  To that, the doctor spat out that the problem was that I'd had a vaginal delivery after a c-section.  Craig jumped right in and pointed out that, No, that's called a VBAC and it's a perfectly normal and acceptable
procedure.  I had been too shocked to even respond, so I was glad he was there to stick up for me.  It's times like that when I really hate doctors!

Anyway, they took Kendra away because they said babies born at home get too cold.  I'm pretty sure this was just a lie because the doctor thought I was crazy (she also had a social worker stop by the next day to "check in" on us, so, yeah she really hated our guts); when they FINALLY brought her back two hours later (and after much begging on my part) the nurse said we'd wrapped her up really well, because her temperature had been fine the entire time; she wasn't even sure why they'd kept her so long.  (Like I said, I'm pretty sure this was the doctor trying to prove that we didn't care about our baby or something.)  Also, in all fairness to the EMTs, I should explain that they were the ones who'd heated the ambulance up really hot just to keep my baby warm!  While Kendra was away being warmed and bathed, they stitched me up (just five or six stitches, apparently), which I found more uncomfortable than labor had been.  Go figure. 

And after all that I was finally admitted to a room and left to be with my baby and husband.

And then, finally, life was good.

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

  The postpartum experience was like night and day.  I felt great-- I already said that I walked down the stairs immediately after delivery!  After the c-section I felt like a zombie shuffling around the hospital hallways, but after this delivery I felt like myself, but maybe a little sore (like you might feel after a hard workout).  It was wonderful.  But even better than the physical recovery was just the feeling that I had done it!  I had read lots of women's testimonials about how giving birth was so empowering, and I always thought that seemed a little cheesy, or like they thought they were better than everyone else or something.  But after I did, I GOT IT.  I felt the same way-- a sort of awesome, "I am woman, hear me roar" feeling combined with a sisterhood with all of womanhood who can do such hard things.  Some time after it all, a friend of mine went on a week-long camping/hiking trip.  I commented to her that I could never do all that, to which she replied, "Um, you just delivered a baby at home.  I'm pretty sure you can do whatever you set your mind to!"  And I thought about that, and I thought, "You know, she's totally right!  I can do whatever I set out to do!"  And isn't that the greatest way to start out being a mother?


Anonymous said…
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Alanna said…
I'm so sorry! I really didn't mean it that way at all-- I just meant that this was how the doctor seemed to perceive me. I certainly don't think that women who don't see a doctor for the prenatal treatment are crazy hippies or even people who aren't taking care of themselves! If I felt like that, I wouldn't be desperately searching for a midwife to help me care for my 4th pregnancy right now!

Please forgive me for implying anything like that!
Anonymous said…
Yeah, and calm down. No reason to freak out at her. She just shared a really personal experience.
Anonymous said…
Great story!! Congrats on a successful (and exciting) delivery and good luck iwth #4!
Mama Birth said…
Alanna- you are all good- thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate it!
Emily said…
What an amazing story - YOU ARE WOMAN! Way to go!
sara r. said…
Some people will always get offended. I'm a crazy hippie and I think it was hilarious. Although I think if I were you I would just have a home birth next time :)
My first came faster than expected and I totally understand not being able to get in the car when your husband says to do it- my brother and husband carried me to the car. The hospital also took my healthy newborn away (born 15 minutes after we got to the hospital) because she was "too cold". We had a homebirth for number 2, with a midwife who never touched me during labor and didn't take away my newborn either.

Congrats on your fast birth and healthy baby!
Mrs. H said…
Yes yes yes!!!!!!! What a triumphant story!!! I am cheering!! What an inspiration you will be for women seeking VBAC!!!!!