The Birth of Thing 2 – My Successful Vbac
So I’ve been eating pineapple and dates, walking, doing spinning babies exercises (don’t ask), and spent more time on my hands and knees these last few weeks than I have in my entire life. (I really should have invested in knee pads.) I’ve also turned in all my Go RVing assignments, written a few drafts for my blogs, cleaned the RV multiple times, and stocked my fridge and freezer with food. I even trimmed my bangs just in case I was subconsciously being stressed out by them and besides labor is uncomfortable enough without being poked in the eyes. Still no baby. Maybe I’m going to be the first woman to be pregant forever and I’ll get to be on the cover of Time or something.
In the meantime, here is Thing 2′s birth story.
After my less than ideal experience birthing Thing 1, I knew I wanted a different kind of birth if possible. Recovering from a c-section was awful but what was worse was not being able to hold him right away and the problems it caused with nursing. With my next baby I was determined to be able to hold him immediately assuming he was healthy and my determination led to a different set of choices.
The Prenatal Days
We started trying for another baby when Thing 1 was a little over a year. It didn’t take long to get pregnant but I ended up miscarrying due to a blighted ovum. A few months later, I found out I was pregnant again when Brent brought me some Jack in the Box chicken fingers and I almost threw up at the sight of them. Although Jack in the Box could make an 80 year old man feel like he had morning sickness.
This pregnancy was a completely different game than my previous pregnancy. I still went to therapy but only once or twice a month. For the most part, I had overcome the mental struggles and depression. We had bought our first house, a fixer upper, and were busy making it our home. However, the first few years of our marriage had been rough on Brent and I and we faced some problems. It wasn’t fun but he started going to therapy with me and over the course of the pregnancy we began to communicate better and develop an even deeper understanding of each other. I’m so thankful that we chose to face and resolve those problems before our second baby arrived.
Like Thing 1, morning sickness was pretty rough but around 12 weeks it went away. I still didn’t know much about exercise and nutrition but I knew I didn’t want to gain 70 pounds again. Especially since I hadn’t lost all of the weight I had gained with Thing 1. I also knew that eating a pint of ice cream and multiple packs of candy a day wouldn’t help anything so I ate much better in comparison and ended up gaining about half the weight. I hadn’t started strength training at that point in my life but we were busy fixing up our house so without knowing it I was doing all sorts of functional fitness. I remember shoveling huge piles of dirt at 6 months pregnant as well painting, sanding, and gardening. I was on my feet working and taking care of a toddler for hours every day.
It never really occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to do a VBAC (vaginally birth after cesarean). In fact during that time VBACs were actually more common than they are now as I would find out eleven years later. In 1999 the ACOG recommended that a doctor to be immediately available to perform a cesarean resulting in many hospitals banning vbacs over the next few years. Luckily, at the time of my pregnancy my hospital had not issued a ban. Unfortunately, the hospital has since changed their policy. Anyway, having a vbac didn’t seem like a big deal or a risk at the time. It seemed like what any healthy woman should do if they so desired.
It should also be noted that due the increase of c-sections (It’s now 1 in every 3 women.) in 2010 the ACOG released less restrictive guidelines on VBACS and said, “most women with one previous cesarean delivery with a low-transverse incision are candidates for and should be counseled about VBAC and offered a TOLAC” (trial of labor after cesarean). Unfortunately, many (most?) doctors and hospitals still stick with the old guidelines even when a repeat cesarean carries more risks compared to a vbac. Even the mainstream Mayo Clinic says, “The risks associated with a vaginal delivery are lower than the risks associated with a C-section overall.”
All that to say I was determined to experience a natural birth and was willing to take the extra steps in education to make that happen.
We decided to take a Bradley Childbirth Class this time around and read the book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition. It has the worst pictures in a birth book ever but has some really great advice especially for the partner. I also read the The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. A really good read btw.
Instead of using my previous doctor who was supportive of vbacs, I started seeing a midwife at his practice and planned for a natural birth. We hired the same doula that we had used for our first birth and since I was facing my fears this time around I hoped I’d actually be able to lean into her for support unlike the last time.
This time around I was impatient and a little worried about having a big baby again so I decided to drink castor oil and have my membranes stripped the day of my due date. Whether it was the castor oil or just a coincidence I don’t know but it worked. I went into a labor a few hours later. I have a few words to describe labor.
Back labor was hell.
It felt like someone was drilling into my spinal column without anesthesia. I moved from my bed to the tub and back again. At one point, I felt like I was going mad and ran around our bedroom screaming. All my preparation felt useless and it became a living nightmare. I wanted to kill anyone said labor could be pleasant or enjoyable. Those women had clearly never experienced back labor. (For the record, I am still hopeful that labor can be pleasant and doesn’t have to be painful but we’ll see in the upcoming days.)
Despite the worse pain in my life, I was determined to have a successful vbac and had learned that the longer I stayed at home laboring the better chance I had of achieving that goal. After what felt like 10,000 years I started to get the urge to push and my doula, who was a midwife in training, checked me to find out I was dilated to 8 cm. Time to go to the hospital.
Getting to the hospital was a blur. I road in my doula’s car “just in case” and Brent followed us. After checking in and getting a room, a nurse scolded me for pushing because my midwife hadn’t arrived. My doula whispered to me and said if I wanted to push gently I could. Thank God because it hurt like hell to not push.
My midwife arrived and checked me I was still at an 8 cm. At this point I was mentally and physically exhausted and felt like I would do anything to get rid of the pain. I asked for an epidural and despite being so far along in labor my midwife thought it would be a good idea so I could get some rest before I pushed. A few minutes later I felt the relief of the epidural and it wasn’t long before I fell asleep for a few hours.
Early in the morning, my midwife came back and found I still had a “lip” around my cervix. In other words, I wasn’t 100% dilated so she pushed back the lip and asked for the epidural to be turned off. What?!?! No, I begged for it to be left on but she insisted that the baby would be out before it wore off.
What we didn’t know (or if my midwife knew she didn’t tell me) was Thing 2 was posterior or facing up instead of being in the ideal position of looking at my backbone where the smallest part of his head comes out first. This was why I was having such ferocious back labor. His skull was grinding against my spine. The same with pushing. For over two hours, I pushed what felt like a stuck bowling ball.
If you remember from Thing 1’s birth story I had a few issues with birth. While I was no longer totally grossed out by birth, there was no way I was going to look in a mirror and Brent was not allowed to look down there either. (He doesn’t have any issues with birth but totally respects my feelings.) My midwife suggested Brent sit in between my legs and we would both pull on opposites ends of a towel while I pushed. Ummm….no. But my midwife insisted so she draped a small towel over that area and would periodically peek under to towel to check my progress. In hindsight, it was kinda funny. The towel pushing also really helped me to push more efficiently and it felt good to work as a team.
Finally two hours later, I saw Thing 2’s face looking right up at me. He never did turn and came out posterior. My midwife took my hands and slipped them under his armpits and I pulled him the rest of the way out and up to my chest. A completely different experience than having my baby whisked by me in the operating room.
We spent the night in my hospital room and he never left my side. It was wonderful. The nurses on the other hand were less than wonderful. It seems they had to come in every five minutes for something. At one point, I was falling asleep and someone came in rudely insisted I get out of bed and sit on a sitz bath. Later, another woke me and Thing 2 up and said we “had to nurse”. But after my previous birth I really didn’t care too much. They were just doing their job and I was just happy to have not been sliced open and have my baby by my side.
I don’t know if it was not having a c-section or being in a better mental space or both but postpartum was much easier this time around. Recovering from a vaginal birth wasn’t a walk in the park. I had torn and had stitches but it sure was a heck of a lot easier than a recovering from a c-section. I did have some postpartum depression but it wasn’t as bad as the first time.
Nursing went well and my milk came in much quicker than with my previous delivery. I wasn’t hooking myself up to a breast pump for hours a day. That was a huge relief.
My biggest challenge was Thing 1. He and I were so close (we still are) and he wasn’t particularly excited about his new baby brother. In fact, a few days after bringing the baby home, he grabbed my cheeks in anger and screamed in my face. It broke my heart to see him so upset but with time he realized that he was still loved.
What I learned
I learned that hard work pays off. I spent hours educating myself and preparing for a vbac. I learned you have to stay flexible. Getting an epidural wasn’t part of my plan but it turned out to be a good choice because it allowed me to get some rest which helped with the two hours of pushing that followed.
I learned that nutrition makes a difference. As I said in my other birth post, I ate a terrible high sugar diet with Thing 1 and gained almost 70 pounds. While my diet was far from perfect with Thing 2, I did “watch what I ate” and gained about half the weight. Thing 2 weighed a full two pounds less than Thing 1.
Most importantly, I learned love multiplies. Before Thing 2 was born, I remember thinking how could I possibly ever love another child as much as Thing 1. I know that may sound weird but it was something that would cross my mind every so often. I’m not the kind of woman who necessarily bonds with my babies while they are still in utero. I wish I was but I’m just not. For me they feel more like aliens than babies until that first look. However, within minutes of holding Thing 2 I was in love and just like Thing 1 that love grew stronger every day until I thought I would burst. I still think that even with an almost teen and teenager.
If You are Interested in a VBAC
Choosing to have a VBAC or a repeat cesarean is a very personal decision. What is right for one woman may be very wrong for another. What is important is understanding the facts for each choice and finding a care provider who is a straight shooter instead of fear monger. You need a provider who educates truthfully, listens and respects your body and your choices. For me having a VBAC, while hard, was worth all the effort. For women interested in VBACS I suggest the following sites.
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Journey with our family on the road at Newschool Nomads as we travel fulltime in RV through the United States.