December 10th, 2016
Six years ago I had a pregnancy that ended in a c-section due to a failed induction. The recovery from my c-section was rough and I always knew that if I was to have another child, I would not have a repeat of my first experience. I initially had trouble finding a doctor who would willingly accept me as a VBAC patient, and even the doctor who did sometimes seemed skittish about the prospect of delivering my baby vaginally. I began to feel like I was less like a patient and more like a liability. Thankfully, I found that midwives have more experience with VBACs than most doctors. Jennifer and Meri Beth believed in my ability to birth a baby. I also knew that by planning a home birth, I had a higher chance of a successful VBAC.
I was 16 days past my due date and I was convinced that I was going to be pregnant forever. I did everything I could think of, ate my body weight in fresh pineapple and worked my way through the list of natural induction methods. I ended up visiting my chiropractor and the next morning signs of labor finally appeared. On Friday I woke up at 4am. I was wide awake without any notable explanation. I hadn’t had too much trouble sleeping during this pregnancy, so this was unusual. I went into the bathroom and saw blood. I was really excited that the process was finally starting!
I started having contractions, they were irregular and low-key. When I called my midwife, Jennifer, at 8am, she told me to go to bed. I slept until about noon and woke up refreshed. The contractions continued and my husband came home from work. I tried to be as active as possible through early labor. We went to the grocery store and walked around for a few hours. I bought a lot of food that I thought I would want in labor and some last minute provisions for everyone else. I was still having contractions, but now they were about every 8 minutes. I would lean on my husband in the store and wait for them to pass and they were quite manageable. I was in high spirits and excited to be in labor. Once we were home we tried to go for a walk outside, but it was cold and snowy and the cold air seemed to make the contractions more uncomfortable, so we turned back and I opted for walking around my house instead. We made dinner and watched a movie. My son helped rub my back during contractions, which I managed on my knees, propped up on a chair or stability ball.
Around 10pm, we took Jennifer’s advice, had a glass of wine and tried to go to bed. I was tired and really wanted to sleep, but every time I had a contraction, I would wake up in a panic. The contractions were significantly less manageable when I wasn’t prepared for them and especially when I was lying down. Around 12:30am we got up and I labored downstairs on the stability ball. The intensity of the contractions were much stronger and they were coming about every five minutes- although still irregular. We called our Doula and she arrived on the scene. I was working really hard and no longer handling the contractions well. This was the most difficult part of my labor as I struggled to find a good way to cope with the contractions. Everything I had practiced in Bradley Class wasn’t working for me. The Bradley Method emphasizes relaxing through contractions on your side and I found that if I attempted that pose, the pain seemed unbearable and magnified. I ended up leaning over the stability ball with my husband on one side and my doula on the other. When I would contract, I would rock back and forth on the ball and my support people would hold my hands and rub my back. I definitely needed two support people during this time because my motivation was running low. Around 3am, my midwives arrived and assessed the situation. I felt like I had been doing well, but when they checked me an hour later, I was only at 3cm.
I thought that I should have been further than 3cm! I was afraid that my energy wouldn’t hold out and that without sleep, there was no way I could keep laboring at this slow rate. I cried and lamented. It is worth mentioning that I didn’t always behave the best in labor- having lots of support people was crucial in this process. I was tired and sick of being in labor and it wasn’t progressing as quickly as I had hoped.
Jennifer decided that I needed to try something different. I was put into the shower and the hot water dulled the intensity of the contractions. After the shower, I moved into my bedroom and someone stacked a throne of pillows on my bed. In between contractions I would sleep propped up on the pillow throne. When a contraction would come on, I would stand up and walk the length of my bedroom for the duration of the contraction. My doula would stand at one end of the room and my husband at the other and I would pace back and forth between them. When I stopped walking, someone would come walk with me to keep me going. Walking through the contractions was very challenging, but it was a good distraction and in this fashion the intensity was manageable for me. For some reason, being upright and moving was how I handled discomfort the best. When I would reach a support person, they would give me a sip of water, pop a grape in my mouth or give me words of encouragement. This process worked so well that around 8:30 I was fully dilated. When my midwives told me it was time to push, I thought they were joking with me. I was shocked that I had progressed so quickly. My water still hadn’t broken and my contractions were not on top of each other like I had expected them to be.
I didn’t want to push though. There was no urge to push and I would have been content to keep walking through contractions forever. My midwives, however, had other ideas. They started emptying my birth kit and setting out all of the supplies. They asked me to take off my pants and then they moved me to the bed. There the second stage commenced.
The contractions were definitely different now and pushing was a ton of work. I rebelled against the pushing stage because it required so much effort. The pressure in my pelvis was very strong and pushing into it made it more intense. My doula held one leg, my husband held the other, one midwife pulled counter pressure with a rozobo and the other helped guide the baby. This stage required a ton of motivation because I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. I didn’t feel the baby moving down the birth canal, or any of the sensations that I was expecting- all I felt was pressure when I pushed. In-between contractions I would rest, breathe and drink water while the midwives checked the heart rate of the baby with the Doppler. Knowing that the baby was doing well was reassuring to everyone in the room.
During one push, I felt a gush and my water broke. After my water broke a lot of the pressure I had been experiencing disappeared and pushing became much easier. During the last few contractions of my labor, I didn’t feel much discomfort at all. The pushing was still hard work, but it was notably absent of pain. The time between contractions seemed significant and I rested between pushes and drank water.
Soon the head came into sight and I was able to reach down and feel the soft hair of my baby during pushes. Jennifer was still pulling me up with the rozobo during contractions and this gave me a great view of the birth as I pushed. The baby started crowning and I was in awe of how much my body was able to stretch with a baby. Again, this part of labor was noticeably absent of pain. I always associated this part of birth with discomfort and there wasn’t any. One big push and the head was delivered. We would have waited for another contraction, but it was now visible that there was a cord around the baby’s neck. Meri Beth calmly explained this to me and asked me to give a big push to deliver the baby so she could unwind him. I summoned every ounce of energy and pushed hard to deliver my baby.
The baby was unwound from the cord, quickly cleared and then I was able to reach down and pull him up to me. My husband and I were completely fixated on the success of the birth and meeting the new baby. I felt euphoric and more content than I have ever felt. The baby was born at 10:55am and he weighed 8lbs 1oz.
While we were enjoying our new baby, there was a situation unfolding at the bottom of the bed. I was hemorrhaging – bleeding much more than was normal. I felt the gushing and the blood, but I honestly didn’t care because I was completely enamored with the baby. The midwives were very busy during this time trying to control the bleeding in a variety of ways. In the meantime, Jennifer called an ambulance, hoping that they could control the bleeding naturally before the crew arrived. They tried many things and intermittently, the bleeding would stop. Unfortunately, it seemed to always pick back up again. It was my decision if I wanted to go to the hospital and I opted to go. The ambulance crew was very professional and I said goodbye to the baby who was in good care with my husband. As I left they were doing skin to skin and I felt confident that he was in good hands. It was a cold, December day and I in no way wanted him immediately whisked out into the frigid air on a stretcher with me.
Without the baby I could go to the closest hospital, which was only three minutes away and didn’t have an obstetrics department. If I had taken the baby, I would have been taken to a hospital 35 minutes away. UPMC treats hospitals like airports, they centralize services at regional sites to cut costs.
The ambulance crew was very professional and kind. At the hospital they gave me pitocin and cleaned me up. The bleeding stabilized and my husband arrived with the baby, freshly diapered, dressed and asleep. I was in such a fantastic mood that not even a trip to the ER could dampen my spirits. The hospital transferred me to another UPMC hospital to be cleared by an OB. This was frustrating because I just wanted to go home and enjoy my family! I felt fine and my bleeding had stopped.
At the second hospital I saw an OB and had two different vaginal exams and an ultasound. Basically all of these tests were inconclusive, but there wasn’t any reason to keep me and I was growing really impatient to leave. After I was discharged I walked myself out of the ER- feeling quite well enough to decline a wheelchair. I arrived home in time for dinner.
I got a shower, nursed my baby, ate a huge plate of spaghetti and generally felt like a million dollars. I couldn’t believe how much easier my vaginal birth was than my C-section. I was ready for bed, sweaty and a bit sore, but completely exalted and otherwise fine. Plus, I could walk and hold my baby- two actions that are not possible in the weeks following a c-section.