A VBA3C story!

December 13, 2016

Birth Story June 2012

By Margi



I got pregnant with my first when I was pretty young, 21, and I had done absolutely NO research or anything. We took the childbirth classes at the hospital, and when they mentioned C-sections I zoned out because I never imagined I would have one! I had trouble with high blood pressure at the end and was induced at 39 weeks for that reason. They broke my water and I immediately started having intense contractions. Thirty minutes in, I asked for an epidural and five hours later I was having a C-section due to fetal distress (knowing what I now know, it was a cascade of interventions from the induction on, but I was young and didn't know anything about birth).


Two years later I was pregnant again and had never heard the term VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). Looking back, Im amazed that my OB didn't at least give me the option! So my second son was born via elective C-section at 38 weeks.


Fast forward 5 years (2010) and I'm pregnant with #3. By this time, I'd heard a lot about VBAC's. I started researching and realized it was exactly what I wanted. I read birthing blogs and watched a lot of videos, even hired an amazing doula, fully planning on a VBA2C...until I transferred to an OB at 30 weeks and she refused to even consider it. Not knowing that I had a voice, I gave up the dream, let my doula go and briefly grieved the loss of something I believed I'd never have. 


When I got pregnant for the 4th time, I debated which birth experience I should choose {push for a trial of labour, or elective cesarean}. My husband wasn't completely on board for a VBAC, and most of my family and friends were frankly in the dark. They had no idea that it was even possible ("You can DO that?!!" was a common response). But I had just enough friends by this time that were pro-natural-birth and quite a few who'd had successful VBAC's (not to mention the support of an AMAZING VBAC support group an hour away!) and my final decision was DO IT!

Surprisingly, one of my biggest supporters was a close friend who loved her 3 Cesareans and never wanted a natural birth...but she recognized it was my dream and she wholeheartedly encouraged me in the fulfillment of this dream. My husband also realized how important this experience was to me and he gave me his full support, even though I knew he didn’t completely understand my obsession.


I wanted a midwife SO deeply, but in the area I live, the midwives are few and far between. The ones who were around, generally choose the easy, low risk births, and it simply wasn't possible for me to get in with them. So I ended up switching to a different doctor in a different city than all 3 of my previous births (which may have been a factor in my VBA3C success). My new GP was dubious but finally agreed to a trial of labour. Then at 36 weeks when I transferred care to an OB I was so nervous and went in ready to fight, but he was 100% supportive from the first moment!


By this time, I’d already hired a doula, read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, watched the Business of Being Born and More Business of Being Born movies, read every VBAMC story and watched every corresponding video, went for regular chiropractic care, and at the end, acupuncture as well. I found it was so important for me to voice my fears when I had them (usually to my doula or the VBAC group).


At 39 weeks my OB stripped my membranes and I was sure this would be IT! I had a bit of cramping and a tiny bit of show...2 days later I started losing my mucous plug and then I thought FOR SURE this was it. It wasn't until 3 days later, as I was watching a movie at a friend's house, I started having contractions that immediately felt different than the prodromal labour pains I'd been experiencing for the past few weeks.  A little sharper, a little more in my back. I went to bed around midnight and by 1:30am I was awake again and pretty sure this was the real thing. I started timing contractions and they were 4-5 minutes apart. I called my doula and told her what was going on. She said to get in the bath and see if anything changed, but before I could do that I had a gush of pinkish fluid and she encouraged us to head in since we had an hour’s drive to the hospital. 


We called an aunt to come stay with the boys and left by about 3 am. Hubby drove slightly faster than usual and we made the drive in a record 45 minutes! Thankfully they set us up in a L&D room right away and I had 3 awesome nurses who started getting me and the room ready. They were so supportive and excited about my VBA3C! I was relieved and immediately felt safe and respected.


The contractions continued to be intense, mostly in my back, every 3-4 minutes and lasting 1 minute each. Little did I know, at that point, that this would go on for close to 12 hours with almost no progress, and dilation at only 2 or 3cm by early afternoon.

Elise was turned slightly, not completely posterior, but partially, and was basically stuck for the majority of those first 12 hours. Back labour, one of my worst fears, had become my reality. I changed positions often and eventually got her to move but it was long & hard...going on less than an hour of sleep and a single piece of toast (eaten before we left home) for sustenance. I managed with no pain meds for the first 8 hours or so but finally asked for laughing gas because I simply couldn't function in the state of exhaustion I was in. The gas really helped me focus on my breathing and took the edge off the pain.


By about 3 pm, Elise had turned and we started progressing much more rapidly. I was checked and pronounced officially in active labour, dilated to 4 or 5. The contractions were crazy strong & hard by this point and I found the laughing gas fairly ineffective. I knew I didn't want an epidural but I wasn't handling it very well so I asked for Fentanyl which helped immensely...not to take away the pain, but to help me relax in between contractions. 


By about 4:30, I started feeling the urge to push. They kept telling me to resist, to fight the urge since I'd only been dilated to 5 or 6 half an hour earlier. So I tried not to, but the urge was incredibly strong and there was no way I could resist it. I finally yelled, "I can't stop it!" and suddenly the bright lights came on, the gloves were donned and the OB was called. I guess I got through! They checked me and in astonishment said, "you're fully dilated; you can push!"


Pushing was weird for me; other than the "ring of fire", which in all honesty felt like I was being ripped in half (just keeping it real here!), I no longer felt any pain or contractions so I had to just decide when to push. I pushed for 20 minutes and it really was a relief to push after all those hours of nothing. I was finally doing SOMETHING and it felt amazing! During my Cesareans, I always felt like simply an observer, but this! This was interactive!

The nurses and my doula were great coaches and I'm so thankful for them because I would've been lost without their help! Finally, her head emerged and then the weirdest but coolest feeling when her whole body just slipped out like a little fish and she was on my chest!!! I can't begin to describe how that felt! My 4th child but my first one to ever lie on my chest immediately after birth. My husband cut the cord and we spent some lovely time bonding as a family while I got stitched up (3rd degree tear).


The biggest surprise (pun intended) was Elise's birth weight of 10 lbs! I was so surprised since all 3 boys were just over 7 lbs. Natural labour & a vaginal delivery were WAY harder than I ever imagined. But I'm so glad I did it. I'm proud of myself for beating the odds and having a (mostly) natural VBA3C, and a 10 lb baby girl at that! I'm quite sure that's what winning a marathon feels like! 


I’m often asked, “Which way is easier?” and I think this is pretty silly if you’re speaking strictly of the birthing process, because with a Cesarean, you do absolutely nothing! So yes, a vaginal birth itself is definitely more work. In my case, I had a 3rd degree tear, so the postpartum pain rivaled that of a C-section, but it was mostly healed up by 3 weeks. However, I found the biggest difference was in how much more energy I had right from day one...it was amazing! We were out at a dinner 2 days after the birth...I never would have done that after a C-section. And of course, the psychological differences were out of this world; I was on a high for weeks!


So many factors played in, not the least of which is my faith in God and knowing He designed me to birth a baby naturally. My VBAC group was also a huge support, and when I had cold feet I thought of a mom in the group who was planning for a VBA3C three months later, and how much she was looking to me for hope!



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