Editor’s Note: This VBAC birth story is from guest writer Heather Garvet. Heather blogs at A Mama’s Blog, where she has written other posts on C-sections, VBACs, breastfeeding, pregnancy, and birth issues, as well as her two boys.
I had a C-section with the birth of my first son, Ryan, in 2004, only because he was a breech baby, and refused to turn. I wasn’t very informed on other alternatives for turning breech babies at the time, other than the external version, and accepted having a C-section was the only way to give birth to my baby.
I was thrilled of course, to have my new baby after the C-section. The hospital was very baby friendly and I was “allowed” to nurse Ryan while I was in the recovery room. As soon as I was out of recovery though, the problems started for me. I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia, and stared vomiting. That was the worse pain I have ever experienced. The nurses were trying to get me out of bed to walk around, but I was too weak, vomiting, and almost fainted every time I sat up. That evening, I started itching like crazy- another reaction to pain medication. On top of that, the pain from the C-section was intense as well.
Without going into all the other details, my recovery from the C-section was very long. After twelve weeks post-partum, I was still sore and having pain occasionally. I had a sixteen week maternity leave, and it killed me that most of my leave was spent recovering from the C-section.
After having such a negative experience from the surgery, I decided with our next baby, I was going to have a vaginal birth, or VBAC for short. I started researching everything I could about VBAC’s, and found out that in most cases, VBAC’s are very safe for the majority of women. I was troubled to learn though, that the majority of hospitals and doctors don’t “allow” VBAC’s, because of the small chance of uterine rupture.
What never was said though, that just being pregnant again increases the chances for uterine rupture after a C-section, because of the baby growing and stretching the uterus. However, the chances for uterine rupture was 0.05% higher than having a repeat C-section. I was still convinced I was going to have a VBAC.
When I found out I was pregnant with our second baby in September of 2005, I immediately called my local hospital and was told they don’t allow VBAC’s. Fortunately, the hospital where I had the C-section, in the next town over, did allow mothers the option of giving birth by VBAC, IF I could find a doctor willing to support that choice.
I found a doctor in a practice that did, and we talked about VBAC. She said I was an excellent candidate for VBAC, since the only reason for the previous C-section was a breech baby. She said the success rate for mothers in that situation was 80%. I did have to sign a waiver though, stating that I understood the risks associated with a VBAC. But, I had to sign a waiver as well, with the C-section. I felt the odds were a lot better for me trying a VBAC, than the aftermath of another C-section. Doctors are so quick to point out the risks with VBAC, but at the same time, C-sections are major surgery, and with any surgery complications can and do arise too.
I was very clear with my doctor and the other doctors in the practice that I was adamant about having a VBAC. I made a birth plan and shared it with each doctor in the practice, since I could not be sure who would be on call when the time came for me to have my baby. I told them, minus a medical emergency, I wanted to see the VBAC through, and did not want them to try to change my mind, or talk me into a C-section, while I was in labor.
We hired a doula, and I took Hypnobirthing classes and practiced the methods. Ideally, I was hoping for a natural VBAC. However, I was still open to the idea of an epidural, if it would help me avoid another C-section. My number one goal was to avoid a repeat C-section, no matter what (minus a medical emergency for either the baby or myself.) I felt like I had done everything I could to prepare myself for a successful VBAC.
About a week before my due date, on a Sunday morning, I woke up at 4:30 with very strong surges (or contractions). I couldn’t sleep through them, and just laid in bed, trying to see if there was a pattern to them or not. They seemed to be coming every 10 minutes or so. At 6:30 when I went to the restroom, I had the “birth show” and was still having surges. I thought this may be the beginning of labor, but didn’t want to get too set on it yet.
My husband, Joe, and I, just hung out on Sunday, and the surges continued. They didn’t seem too bad, as long as I was doing something. I laid down Sunday afternoon and listened to the Hypnobirthing CD, and was able to sleep for about half an hour. When I tried to go to sleep Sunday night, I couldn’t fall asleep- the surges were too strong. I tossed and turned, and just tried to breathe through them. They were getting stronger and I knew I was in labor.
At 3:00AM Monday, Joe got up for work and checked to see how I was doing. He timed the surges for a while, and they were about seven minutes apart. He didn’t want to go to work, but I figured it was too soon to call the doctor, and I told him I would call him if the surges got closer together. He decided to go to work until 7am, when Ryan usually wakes up, and then take him over to the grandparent’s house.
I tried to relax and get comfortable in different positions, but nothing helped much. I took a long shower and that felt really good. I was starting to worry about not sleeping, and tried to doze in between surges, but as soon as I would start to doze off, another surge would hit. I called my mom who lived out of state, and she said I was definitely in labor, and would have the baby by that night.
Joe came home right when Ryan was waking up. He got him dressed and brought him into my room, and I hugged him goodbye. He was really calm and excited to be going to grandma’s house. I called Sandi, our doula. I went into Ryan’s room and sat on the glider with a blanket and tried to relax. I told my body, I needed to rest, and the surges actually slowed down, back to 10 minutes. It seemed to help me relax, but I still couldn’t sleep.
Finally around 11:30, I got up and Joe said he thought we should call the doctor. I called and they said they could examine me and give me some sleeping medicine if I wasn’t in active labor. They told me to come in at 2:30.
The doctor’s nurse called back and said since I was attempting a VBAC, they wanted me to skip the doctor, and just go to labor and delivery. I got nervous, because I didn’t want them to give me pitocin (pitocin can increase the uterine rupture rate in VBAC mothers), in case I wasn’t in active labor. But the surges were getting stronger and I knew it was just a matter of time before we had to go- one way or another.
We checked into the hospital, and were shown to a room. It was 1pm. At 1:05, I had a really strong surge and stood up, to lean on a table, and my water broke. Right then the nurse came in. She told me since I was a VBAC, they had to have the fetal monitor on me at all times, and I was not going to be able to move or walk around.
I changed into the gown and the nurse found the baby’s heartbeat. She said the baby sounded great, and I was having nice contractions. She told me it was odd though- my contractions were lasting 2 to 3 minutes. She said that was very long. She also told us my doctor was on call, so she would be delivering the baby. She said she would be up in a few minutes to check my cervix.
While we waited, the surges kept coming, and they were increasingly painful. I was so tired. It seemed like each surge was just taking all my energy. I stopped breathing and was yelling through the surges. Finally, the nurse told me not to yell, and to use the Hypnobirthing. She helped me breathe through them, but I was still moaning too. Joe called Sandi, to have her come to the hospital. He also helped me try to breathe through them, but it wasn’t working.
Finally my Dr., Dr. T., examined me. She said I was at 4cm. and the baby was –2. I told her I wanted an epidural, because I really didn’t think I could see this all the way through, unless I got some relief from the pain. About half an hour later, it started to work, and I could still feel the surges and had to breathe through them, but the epidural took the intense pain away. I could finally rest in between the surges, relaxed.
I seemed to lose track of time and around 6pm, Dr. T came in and examined me, and said I was still at 4cm, and my surges were irregular and not effective. She also said the baby was facing towards my hip, which was not a good birthing position. She said since I had been at 4cm. for over four hours, it was time to start thinking about pitocin. She had to tell me the risks of pitocin with a VBAC to me and to the baby. The other option of course, was another C-section. Joe and Sandi suggested I labor a little while more, and then decide. Dr. T. agreed to this, so we decided to give it another 30-40 minutes. I was really scared at this point, and Joe and Sandi assured me, even if we had to start pitocin, it would be in such a small dose; it could be just enough to speed up the contractions.
I started to cry, saying I didn’t want another C-section, and Joe told me we were a long way from there. I turned on my side, and tried to calm down. I told myself over and over, I was going to dilate to 8, the next time they checked me, and the baby was going to turn around. I stared to listen to the Hypnobirthing birthing affirmations again. Meanwhile, Joe started to rub an acupuncture point on my hand- between the thumb and index finger. I immediately started having more surges. We kept doing this until the nurse came to check me.
She said I wasn’t going to believe this, but I was at 8 cm., and the baby had turned back around, so its nose was towards my back! I was so happy, and amazed I went from 4cm. to 8 in 30 minutes! Then I told myself I was going to be at 10cm. the next time they checked. Ten minutes later she checked me again, and I was fully dilated and ready to push. I know the affirmations I used, and the acupuncture point Joe rubbed helped my body have regular surges again.
Looking back, I believe when I was at home, and told my body that I needed to rest, and my surges went from 5 minutes apart to 7, I actually slowed down my surges. When I finally told my body I was going to open from 4cm. to 8cm, and then from 8cm. to 10cm., I believe I was giving my body “permission” to start the regular surges again.
I started pushing around 7:30pm. I was so tired…I hadn’t slept since early Sunday AM since the contractions had been too strong to sleep through. Since my surges were so long, I was pushing 4-5 times w/ each surge. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. Finally, the head was almost out, and thought every push would be my last, but the head just wasn’t coming out. I could feel Dr. T. trying to stretch my perineum, with my pushes, but that wasn’t working either. She finally suggested an episiotomy even though she said she had been trying to avoid it, but said there was just not enough room for the head. At that point I remember telling her I didn’t care- I just wanted to get the baby out, and finally meet him or her.
A few minutes later, at 9:43pm., Cole Emory was born. He was 7lbs. 5 oz. and 20 inches long. He was put on my stomach immediately and I saw right away he was a boy. I was so happy to hold my baby. He was the best reward after a 41-hour labor. Total labor time was 41 hours and 43 minutes.
I was ecstatic. Though the VBAC was long, it was successful. I I am so grateful I didn’t have to have to use pitocin or have another C-section. Even though I was sore after the birth, it was nothing like the pain I had after the C-section. I am amazed how powerful the mind and body can be. Joe told me watching Cole being born was the most fascinating and astonishing thing. Even though the labor didn’t go exactly how I imagined it, the end result was perfect.
This experience left me in awe on how the mind can work. I told myself for ten months, I was going to have a VBAC. Even though my labor didn’t go exactly how I thought, I know I was able to draw on my Hypnobirthing knowledge and practice, and get my mind and body to work together.
I was so fortunate to have had a “team” support me in my decision on how Cole was to be born. I know I would have never made it through the labor without Joe. My doula offered so much support too, and I am thankful that my doctor allowed me to give birth the way I wanted, and didn’t immediately wheel me off for a C-section, when labor was stalled.
Three weeks after my VBAC, I felt better and more recovered than I did after twelve weeks after the C-section.
If anyone is considering a VBAC, I would recommend it without any reservations. Of course, you need to discuss it with your doctor or mid-wife, but I felt so much more connected to the birth with a VBAC. I know I would always wonder what giving birth the way my body was made, was like and I felt so empowered after giving birth to Cole. I knew that was the way it was supposed to be, and I am so happy I trusted my body and myself to give birth to Cole this way.