This post took me almost 8 months to write, it is a long one so grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine and feel free to send me your thoughts at the end.
I walked into my OBGYN’s office for my first 8-week check up toting along my 9 month old son. My DR smiled at me when I came in and then told me that she doesn’t help crazy people and to go find a different doctor – she was joking….but not really.
My firstborn was a C-Section. My doctor knew I wanted to try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section). She sounded iffy about it, the kids wouldn’t be the recommended 18 months apart, just shy at 16. This presented an increased risk of complications as my ‘uterus hadn’t fully healed’ from the C-Section. In BC, the VBAC attempt rate is about 25% and the success rate of a VBAC is about 75% (source)
As the pregnancy progressed, the doctor said I could try for a VBAC if I went into labour on my own, the baby was smaller & in a position that promotes easier delivery. Regardless I would be scheduled for a CS on July 3rd, I would be 39 weeks.
The months leading to my due date, having a VBAC or another CS was the topic of conversation within my social circle. Everyone understood that I wanted to ‘try’ but some were apprehensive, supportive but reluctant, or not supportive at all. The concern of course, that I would go through an onerous labour only to end in another CS – which would be hard on Mom and Baby.
I found myself praying constantly that God’s will be done and not mine. I was examining my motives for wanting a VBAC. I would spend lots of nap times researching VBACs and trying to do all I could to get my baby in the ‘right’ position. At times I felt alone in this, as my husband would later admit, he didn’t think a VBAC was possible for me. I just kept moving forward though – as long as I felt peace with pursuing this goal – I would keep moving forward in my quest to have a VBAC.
As I rounded the corner to the big day, things with baby and me were looking good. My doctor offered to ‘stretch my cervix’ at 38 weeks. The two things I can tell you about this is. One, yes, it’s as painful as it sounds, and two, it has a 1 in 7 success rate.
OPERATION INDUCE-LABOUR was being fully implemented. This meant a butt load of long walks (in the hot summer heat), self – acupressure, living on the birthing ball, only sleeping on my left side, eating all the spicy foods I could handle, eating pineapple, watching marathons of 16 and Pregnant, lots of praying and anything else I could think of (yeah, you know what I’m saying).
THE WEEK OF DELIVERY
Went for a monster long walk. I’m talking kid in stroller, going downtown in the heat and back up the big hill. The next morn my pelvis was throbbing like I took a trip to Long Island and rode the mechanical bull at the pub – but without all the fun.
Monday (38 weeks):
Doctor stretched my cervix to 2 cm
Had pancakes and a dance party in the morning, then a huge walk in the aft – this got contractions starting every 10-15 min.
As they got more regular we decided to head to the hospital (over an hour drive away). However, when we got there the contractions had stopped. The doctor said I was 3cm though!
I am so thankful I didn’t go into full labour then.
We left the hospital, checked into an over-priced hotel, ordered some pizza and our favourite movie happened to be on cable. God has a sense of humour. And a plan.
|Poster from Etsy|
I had irregular contractions from 11pm- 3am. Though they were painful I was so happy that my body was getting into position and that I didn’t have to be laying in the hospital. I could just feel things shifting. I remember feeling this with Levi, and with all the contraction pains, I wouldn’t progress in dilation. It felt so defeating.
I just felt different this time – like my body was all ‘Ok, get your shit together – this is what we’ve been practicing for, everyone in positions’.
700 – Woke up, had a hot shower, did my hair and makeup without a toddler eating my makeup and toilet dunking my brush. Went for a nice brunch and we ate our food hot and sipped our coffee over the din of the morning. Even though I was having the odd contraction it felt like we were on a little get-away as my son was back at home with my friend and his Gramma
1030 – Stopped in to see the doctor, I was 4cm (way to go Cervix!). She offered to stretch me to 5 and I said bring it!
1130 – Got a lemonade and headed to the beachfront for another monster walk.
1230 – When we ran out of restrooms available for me along the walk we stopped and had a nice lunch. I made a point of eating and drinking all I could because with my son they cut me off after a while and I have never been so thirsty in my life. During lunch, my contractions were starting to be regular and more painful at every 10 minutes.
130 – I was starting to feel tired so we walked back out to the beach. Curled up on a blanket and laid down on the beach for a rest but contractions quickly changed to hard and fast, so to the hospital!
500 – My docto wasn’t on-call but she came in to see how I was fairing. She checked my progress and found I had dilated more, so let’s keep this train rolling and break the water? Ok! After the unbearably long labour with Levi I was ready to rock and roll (only to find out this would mean an unbearably fast labour).
I had spent a lot of time thinking about the hurdles in my son’s birth (morphine shots, laying on my side, lack of movement) so I tried to keep active with this labour. I changed positions whenever suggested by the nurses and kept a squat position most of the time, sitting on the ball. This time I could feel the second that the baby ‘dropped’ into place – kind of a thump deep down between my hip bones. Then the action really started (in gross and excruciating ways).
I screamed so loud through every contraction that punks in the hallway were making fun of me. I didn’t want anyone to touch me and had to pull my husband’s flexed arm down through each contraction while my sister held my legs in whatever position I pleaded for.
This is gonna be some real talk about my labour experience: I felt like I was drowning under tidal waves. Liquid was gushing out of me, the contractions were relentless and so close together. I could barely breathe through it all. I know at one point I looked at my husband and said I couldn’t do it. I don’t remember what he said, but I do know I wouldn’t have made it through without him and my sister encouraging me. Making me feel like it was ok. I was truly terrified of my own body and the pain it could be in. In the back of my mind, I was just waiting for them to say ‘we are doing a C Section’.
One of the wonderful doctors also thought it would help to turn the baby as it was in the wrong position – with some painful prodding I could suddenly feel the flutter of the baby turning. At this point I knew that I would be having a VBAC. It was also about this time I think I asked for an epidural. My husband quietly said, ‘Shawna – you know you don’t want that’. Heck yeah I did! But I was too late. Looking back, I’m glad I was too late. He was right (but oh so wrong for saying it at the time).
800 – Two soft-spoken female doctors with long grey hair and excited eyes led me to begin pushing. One of the doctors was pouring hot water over my perineum to keep it from tearing – at one point she asked me if I rode horses because my perineum was very tough (WTF? Props to my Husband and Sister for not falling down laughing at this moment). They coached me sweetly and encouraged me when I asked what I was doing wrong. I guess I imagined it would be more sudden and that after a few pushes you can feel the baby ready to come out, that’s what the TV told me anyways. A baby nurse who had shown up as I was getting closer was watching quietly by the door. She could see me struggling in my mind with what I needed to be doing. She walked right up to the table – told me to put my arms under my legs and grab her hands. This was just the leverage I needed to pull back on to really prop my body into those last couple pushes. It worked.
845 – Suddenly feeling so empty and relieved. A little pink baby was being brought to the table for examination and soft-smiling women told us we had a girl. I looked at Conor and said ‘you have a daughter’ He cried. It was incredible. My sister took photos . My husband phoned his family with a shaky voice and teary eyes. And I kinda laid there – numb, shaking, happy, confused.
|Hey Sis, remember that time you took photos of the baby I just popped out of my vagina and I had to crop them all cause I’m delivering my placenta in the background, true story|
Then I realized I could take a shower – I wasn’t in a lethargic haze alone in a recovery room. I wasn’t hooked up to IVs or catheters, or cut in half with staples in me. I was present. My baby was right beside me. I didn’t have to wait hours and be one of the last ones to meet her. I could hold her close to me and nurse her right away. I could drink water and eat snacks, rather than have water dabbed onto my lips with a sponge while I begged for crackers. I could walk to the bathroom, stand upright in the shower and change into my own clothes! We even got to go home to our son and our bed the next day (though we would have to return a couple days later for her jaundice).
|Leaving for home, barely one day old and barely fits the carseat|
This is where it hit me. I delivered my baby. My body did what I had told myself a ‘woman’s body should do’.
When you have a baby, people don’t ask you (as if it’s taboo) if you had it naturally. It’s just assumed you did. The woman who delivers vaginally can never relate to the recovery, the debilitation, the heartache that a CS can bring to some. That’s why I originally wrote the post on my C-Section. That’s why I started blogging. To reach out to those who had a CS and to shed some light for women who haven’t.
With my son’s birth, I was at the mercy of the doctors and nurses around me cutting me open. I was doing ‘what had to be done’ to ensure the safety of my child. I was (or would become) grateful for these interventions there to help me and would do it all over again.
However, with my daughter’s birth, I felt empowered. I felt proud, like I could look at my husband and say ‘Look what I did. Look what I have given you’. You hear the term ‘strength of a woman’ and I felt like I understood that finally. The places your mind goes to get through the pain, the breaking of your wits through the tremors – like it’s melting your body down and reshaping it into something new and stronger. I felt like a warrior.
Right after Baby Girl was born I would adamantly announce to my husband that we would be stopping at two kids, and if there happened to be a third that I would punch him in the throat and then have a planned C-Section. I had no ounce of confidence that I could go through labour again. I wanted a plan, I wanted the drugs, I wanted to just get it over with.
I think I was pretty terrorized by the pain I endured, and yeah, I felt kinda like a wimp for it. Then at my 6-week follow-up appointment my OBGYN told me she read and heard all about my delivery and that she was proud of how well I had done. Which I didn’t ‘DO’ anything because believe me, there wasn’t much voluntary action on my part (which would become a theme of my nether regions post-delivery, you hear me sista friend?). She went on to say that this was a very fast and furious labour and delivery and I should be proud. Ok, I’ll take whatever I can get. And if you were one of those moms who ‘sneezed out their babies’ or ‘barely felt the contractions’ then I say ‘Good Day!’ to you! I SAID GOOD DAY!!
Eight months later, here are three things I can say with certainty. One, it doesn’t matter how you have them – they are yours, you brought them into this world and the journey starts that moment they tighten their little fingers to grip your hand. Two, if/when I get pregnant again I will punch my husband in the throat and then I will try again for a natural delivery – suppose I’ve got that momnesia thing that happens after birth. Three, it was so easy with one kid, like really! But two is pretty cool.
If you have had a VBAC, I would love to hear your story. Please feel free to share.