The 13-Minute VBAC

The doula and me in the delivery room just after my daughter was born.
Self-portrait with the doula in the delivery room bathroom (including the tub I obsessed over and never got to use) just after my daughter was born.

This is the story of C’s birth…..almost one week after it happened. 🙂

2/6/2014 6:37 pm

I’ll preface this by saying that I had a lot of fear going into this birth. It wasn’t a difficult pregnancy but it was definitely harder than the pregnancy I had with my son and included various concerns throughout…. I had Pityriasis Rosea in the very beginning, then failed my first gestational diabetes test (by three points – I ended up testing my blood after each meal at home for two weeks and GD was easily ruled out), then started to have higher blood pressure (never at dangerous levels but definitely higher than I normally had) in the last few weeks, which was actually probably more due to a combination of the stress I experienced going to my prenatal appointments as well as the labor prep tincture I was taking which included an herb that could potentially raise or lower blood pressure. I was in a hospital setting this time, as opposed to the independent birthing center environment I had enjoyed for my prenatal appointments and labor for my son’s birth. And, of course, there was the big “WHAT IF” at the end of the pregnancy that always loomed in the background….would I end up with another emergency c-section or the vaginal birth I really, truly, very much wanted? I tried to tell myself that I was okay no matter what and as long as my baby was okay, but I honestly didn’t know if that was true.

I woke up at about 1:30 am on January 30 with contractions that were stronger than the Braxton-Hicks that I had been experiencing for weeks. I timed them and they were about ten minutes apart which was very encouraging. At this point, according to the hospital’s calculation, I was at 41 weeks and 1 day (though I think 40 weeks and 5 days was more accurate), and induction had already been mentioned several times (very stressful for a mama hoping for a VBAC). I was actually scheduled to go in for a non-stress test (NST) that day that I was really hoping wouldn’t be necessary. I wanted this little girl to come on her own and I didn’t want to subject her to a very long doppler/ultrasound combination if I didn’t have to.

I got up and finished some last-minute work stuff (assuming I would be having a baby that day or the next) while I timed contractions, which were staying pretty steady at 8-10 minutes apart. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible (little did I know how true this statement would be later on) so I figured it would still be quite a while before we packed everything up. With my son, I was in prodromal labor for two days prior to his birth, but I was hoping it would be at least a little shorter for my daughter (reading a lot of birth stories about very quick labors made me very hopeful). I went back to bed a little later on and managed to sleep between contractions for a few hours.

The day was actually a normal one except for the contractions, which I kept timing. They didn’t seem to have a normal pattern at all ranging any where from 6 minutes to 12 minutes, which I found to be very frustrating as that’s a sign of false labor. Fortunately, E had taken the day off for the NST as well as a massage I had scheduled later in the day (to try and get labor going), so he took care of our son while I laid down for a bit in the morning. Finally, we decided to just go ahead and go in for the NST since labor didn’t seem to be picking up and we wanted to get it in just in case things petered out, though we did cancel the massage.

It was an awful experience. I was hooked up to the machine for about two hours total which is about an hour-and-a-half longer than I wanted to be. Her heart dipped once after a contraction and took a while to come back up which is what finally sent me to a c-section at the hospital during my son’s birth (it happened three times then, though). The midwife finally came into the room after an hour on the machine, looked at the printout and said, “Oh, I don’t like that. Her heart dipped. That’s not good. I have to go but I’ll be back in a little bit.” And then left me alone in the room (E had taken B out to the waiting area to play) for another half hour. Needless to say, I was anything but relaxed.

She finally came back in and took another look at the printout which had a few more dips (though they always went back right away so none were as bad as that first one). I told her I was really stressed now, hoping my daughter was okay, especially after what she had said. We talked for a bit and she did the ultrasound (plenty of fluid and the placenta looked great), but then she wanted to watch her heart for another half hour. I was frustrated, to say the least, but hoped that everything would look good and maybe the few drops weren’t anything to worry about. She said sometimes, if baby moved around a lot (which our girl was doing a lot of), or tugged on her umbilical chord, that could account for the little blips. She was encouraged by the fact aside from the blips, everything looked great.

So I sat in the room alone for another half hour (ironically, in between tests, I had to go to the bathroom and ran into the midwife who had started the birthing center I was at for my son – she now works at the hospital) and waited….still stressed. The amount of stress I had had during this pregnancy was definitely not good for either my girl or me.

Finally, the midwife came back in and said that we had passed, but she was still concerned. She said that because of the dips, I would be a candidate for induction right then. But that was the last thing I wanted as induction contractions are exponentially worse (leading to both more stress on our girl and more painful contractions for me) and it often leads to c-sections (especially in TOLAC [trial of labor after c-section, which is what I was] mamas). I didn’t want to put either one of us through that. She also said that she had no qualms about sending me home, but really wanted to see labor starting very soon. Ironically, during the whole test, my contractions were steady at six minutes apart. She offered to check my cervix to see if I was dilated, as well as strip my membranes, but I declined both.

During all of this, while E and B were out in the waiting area, B got hit in the face with a door in a little play house and then was later slapped in the face by another little boy, which shocked him. When I heard about this, I was livid, and the whole experience was one I never, ever want to repeat. Finally, we headed home, making a quick stop to get some lunch and forget about the awful experience at the hospital. I was really ready to just be done.

B had slept in the car and the NST had gone on a LOT longer than we thought it would, so we had a quick lunch and then tried to put him down for a nap, which didn’t happen. I was still trying to time contractions but they still seemed to be all over the place, sometimes at 5 minutes, sometimes at 10 minutes, so I assumed I was still in prodromal labor (though the contractions were pretty painful at this point).

We got through a few hours with the contractions continuing their weird pattern. I laid down (which made the contractions horribly painful) while E took B out to run some errands and then came back and made supper before we tried to figure out our game plan. We were pretty sure we’d be heading to the hospital either later that night or the next day (I remember looking at the clock at around 6 thinking that it was too late for her to be born that day – hah!) so we tried to keep the routine for B as normal as possible (we were really hoping to disrupt his little world very minimally). I was only able to eat a little of the egg sandwich E made me for supper and then went to lay down for a little bit again as the contractions were getting more painful. We finally decided that we should probably call our babysitter so she wouldn’t have to come in the middle of the night and the doula. While E did B’s nighttime routine (bath, teeth brush, stories), I sent them text messages and paced back and forth in the kitchen and living room while timing contractions which were about 4 to 6 minutes apart. I was calm throughout all of this (other than being stressed from the non-stress test experience), which is exactly how I was with my son’s birth as well. S, the babysitter, arrived first and just sat and talked to me while I paced. The doula arrived a little later and because I was very calm and still talking through everything, she suggested I was still in false labor which was very discouraging to me as I wanted this to be IT! After the non-stress test experience and ten months of just being worried about everything, I was really just done and the only thing I wanted was a healthy little girl, regardless of how she came out of me. At about 8, E was done with B’s routine, so I went in his room and we prayed together as we do every night, then E put him to bed and I went back out to the living room.

The doula suggested that I sit between contractions instead of pacing, which was a welcome reprieve for me, so I sat on the couch and listened to her and S chat. I had several contractions while sitting and they were easier to handle that way, so I just stayed where I was while S volunteered to rub my feet (which felt amazing though I had to stop her whenever I had a contraction). E came out of B’s room a little later and asked the doula why she thought this wasn’t true labor (he didn’t understand how it couldn’t be real labor since the contractions were so close together) and she said it was a state of mind…I was still calm, still able to chat, so it didn’t look like real labor to her. She thought that I was maybe 2 or 3 centimeters dilated and suggested we watch a movie, but I didn’t want to. I do remember that I was cold and someone wrapped a blanket around me.

And then, quite unexpectedly, at the end of a contraction, my water broke. I was surprised at first (this didn’t happen until I was in the tub pushing with my son’s labor) and then realized what happened and said, “Oh no! My water broke!” and I tried to hold it in. The doula came over and told me it was okay, so I let it all out (the small amount that I was sort of able to control). S shoved a sweatshirt (the only thing available) between my legs and E got a towel then took me to the bathroom to check the color of the water and clean me up.

The water was clear (thank God) so we went back out to the living room to figure out what to do next. Most hospitals put you on a 12- to 18-hour timer after your water breaks before they really want to get the baby out, and labor can STILL peter out after your water breaks. E was very much for me going to the hospital and I was of the same mindset, but the doula, who had witnessed far more births than either of us (2 between us, if you count our son’s birth), suggested that maybe we should wait a bit and could I possible try and rest? I had complained of being so tired (which I was – it had been an exhausting day), and a nap did sound nice (I had actually slept a little between transition and pushing with my son’s labor, not that I thought I was anywhere near transition at this point). I couldn’t decided though. At this point I just wanted to climb in the big tub at the hospital since the contractions were so painful. I could still talk through them, but they hurt so very much. The doula told us what she thought might happen at the hospital (swab to make sure my water did break then another NST and then maybe a nap a few hours later when they finally brought me to the birthing room), but we finally decided to just go and whatever happened (labor petering out or otherwise), happened. I just really wanted to get in that tub.

E started gathering our things and I waited on the couch then slowly made my way to the top of our stairs where I finally said, “we have to go.” I didn’t want to debate anything any longer. We had made a decision and we need to follow through.

So I made my way down to the garage. I didn’t think about the fact that the next time I walked these stairs, I’d have another baby with me, as I had just before my son’s birth. I just concentrated on the contractions as I climbed in the car (with the seat covered in a trash bag and a waterproof mat we had gotten from the birthing center four years ago – I still had fluid gushing out of me with every movement or contraction, which was a strange sensation).

Our little girl arrived in the middle of several snowstorms and that night there was another one. E still drove as fast as he could, even running a red light, and it took us about a half hour to get to the hospital. I had contractions all the way there that were about 3 minutes apart steadily. I was glad for that as that was actually when the midwife had told me to come to the hospital – when the contractions were 3 minutes apart. So I had water breaking and well-timed contractions on my side! Surely I wouldn’t be in labor for a very long time once I got there! I just kept fixating on being able to climb into that tub.

We turned on to the street where the hospital is and I had a particularly powerful contraction that ended a little…..weird. It just felt different somehow and I had a suspicion that I might be a little further along than I thought I was when we left home.

We finally made it to the hospital entrance and I had a contraction at the car, then we walked into the hospital and I had a contraction at the sitting area, then we finally got to the OB screening desk and I had a contraction while the nurse was asking me for my insurance card and when my water broke, etc. etc and I told her I wanted a midwife (since they have both OBs and midwives). She led me into a screening room and saw that the fluid I was leaking was all over my pants so she said she could just swab my underwear and they’d get me up to a room after that. I took off my pants and underwear (and showed her the mucous plug contained therein which I thought she needed to see for some reason…anything to prove that I was actually in labor!) and then had a contraction…..that made me push.

I pushed twice during that contraction and just looked at the nurse before I said, “I pushed” (because I really did think she should know that). She stopped what she was doing, looked at me and asked if I needed to push and I said yes before I was hit with another one. She quickly put a glove on and told me that she was going to check my dilation which I thought was going to be so painful (I still didn’t think I had gone through transition yet) and her hand came back in a fist shape with blood on it before she announced that I was fully open and everything went crazy. Despite the fact that I’m calm and quiet during first stage labor, second stage is an ENTIRELY different story and I was very, very loud during pushes. This along with the fact that the staff was rushing to get people down to the screening room since they thought I might be having her there at any second created mass chaos.

She kept trying to get me to climb on the bed in the screening room but I didn’t feel like I could move. They finally got a stretcher into the room and I was somehow able to climb on that one on my hands and knees (which was a little alarmingly like my son’s birth after that one went crazy as well) and they wheeled me out to the elevator while I yelled and pushed (they did eventually tell me to try and breath through the contractions if I could so they could get me to the room in time). The elevator arrived with about a million people from upstairs and various equipment and the nurse told them we were going upstairs.

The next part is blurry. I do remember as they pushed me into the room, the stretcher ran into the doorway because there was only one person driving it. Then I had to climb into yet another bed and made it onto my side where they attempted to get the fetal monitor on me with me panicking because they couldn’t seem to find her heartbeat (due to the fact that I was in a really weird position). All the while, I was having amazing pushing contractions (that I most certainly did push and yell and scream through) which I was so, so happy about because I COULD push and even though there was a little doubt in the back of my mind about whether or not this was really going to happen (and part of me saying it wouldn’t and I’d just end up with another stuck baby and a c-section), it felt so wonderful to be able to push (as I had to stop pushing during my son’s labor to keep his heart rate up).

They finally got the fetal monitor on me so we could hear her heartbeat (which sounded perfect!) and I managed to get on my back, so everyone was in place (except there were a LOT more people in the room than I had imagined) and a few pushes later (one in which I felt her body go down and then come back up which is what I had read about so many times when I was preparing for my son’s birth), with encouragement from my husband and whoever else was in that room, I felt my little daughter’s head crown (and I was now to the point I had not gotten to with my son’s birth). I stopped because the contractions stopped and waited (they asked if I was waiting because I wasn’t having contractions so I think they never got the contraction-monitoring device on me which they also had to have because I was a TOLAC and would let them know if my uterus was starting to rupture) and they said that was good so my birthing bits could stretch out and I was able to reach down and feel the top of her head (which was surreal). Then, with the next push, I felt her little head pop out and then another push and her body came out, and a sweet little cry before they put her directly on my chest (I was still wearing my “labor” clothes, the same clothes I wore during my son’s labor, when she was born so they had to push everything up) and wrapped a blanket around her. All told, we were at the hospital for about 13 minutes before she was born.

It was, in all honesty, probably one of the most amazing moments of my life. I held her closely and felt her little, slippery body and the umbilical cord and cried and took it all in (they told me to make sure she was a girl too :)) before I realized that her cries weren’t clearing out the gunk in her throat as they should be and she sounded gurgly. I asked what was wrong and they said that she was having a little trouble so they waited until the cord was done pulsing and had E cut it before they took her to the warming station to suction her out, which I was very sad about as I wanted my baby!

There was honestly so much going on that I have a hard time separating it all. E went with our girl to the warming table to keep his hands on her while they tried to get her cleaned out. Her oxygen levels were good at first and then dropping so they called in a few other people from the NICU to come down and help. Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta and they started to clean and sew me up (second-degree tear). I kept my eyes on my little girl while answering question and absorbing the shock of the fact that I had just pushed out a baby and only about an hour ago I was contemplating a nap. The nurse kept reassuring me that she was okay and that they did see this happen with quick deliveries when the baby wasn’t able to get as much junk out and needed a little help. E later told me that they kept suctioning and suctioning and more and more stuff just kept coming out. They finally decided to bring her to the NICU where they had better equipment so he brought her over to me and I held her for a little bit and kissed and smelled her little head before they took her upstairs and E went with her.

She was gone for about an hour and a half, but despite the fact that everything I’ve ever read says that those first few hours after birth are THE MOST important for bonding between mother and infant, I had peace because I really just wanted her to be okay and I knew that she was in the best place she could be to get the help she needed and E was with her. In the days that followed her birth, I was so, so, so, so very thankful that we made it to the hospital when we did and didn’t wait longer so that she was able to get the attention she needed. The staff also kept reassuring me while she was gone that she was just fine and they just wanted to be extra careful that her oxygen levels were staying steady.

We spent the next few days cocooned in our little room at the hospital with only a visit from S (sweet S who came at 5:30 in the morning on Friday because she was so excited for us and I was thankful because I had spent the night holding my daughter and laughing because I had just had a VBAC, my sweet girl was okay, and wasn’t sleeping anyway) and E and B (who was overwhelmingly cute and shy when he met his sister for the first time). It was so cozy with snow falling outside and very few interruptions by the hospital staff (who were amazing), just getting to know each other and nursing and sleeping and just being at rest together which I think more than made up for the two hours she was in the NICU just after birth.

My recovery has been exponentially better both physically and emotionally than the first time around and nursing my son for three years has also come in handy as we haven’t had any problems with breastfeeding. We have side-lying nursing down to an art, so my nights are only abbreviated with small interruptions to switch sides before we both go back to sleep.

I am so, so, so very thankful. Not only for the amazing birth experience, but also for my beautiful daughter. I love her so much already and can’t image my life without her.

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4 Comments

  1. Summer Allen says:

    Beautiful story Rebecca! So happy for the four of you! It only gets better from here!

  2. Christine T. says:

    Congratulations on your triumph-your VBAC. I had my VBA2C in June of 2013. It is such a blessing and gift to overcome the trauma of surgical birth-necessary or unnecessary. Great birth story, mamma.

    1. Thanks, Christine! Congratulations on your own VBA2C! 🙂

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