My baby girl recently had her first birthday and I’m finally ready to share my Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) story. I was hesitant to post something so intimate in a public space. But when I thought about the impact that positive birth stories had on me, the answer was simple. I have to share my birth story for anyone that needs encouragement, anyone that’s afraid of childbirth, afraid of a VBAC, or has doubts about a woman’s ability to birth.
In my last post, I discussed how fear of vaginal childbirth lead me to have an elective C-section with my first baby. These feelings resurfaced when I became pregnant again. During my second pregnancy, I was more afraid of a repeat C-section. Specifically, the C-section recovery.
My life during my second pregnancy was different. The home that we lived in had a lot of stairs and I had a toddler to consider. A C-section recovery wouldn’t allow me to climb stairs or to carry anything heavier than the new baby for several weeks. I already felt major mommy guilt about bringing home a new baby and I didn’t want to say no to picking up my toddler.
I weighed my options and decided to plan a VBAC. I didn’t have a strict birth plan, rather, an ideal birth situation that I discussed with my midwife and doula. I wanted to go into labor naturally (no induction), labor at home as long as possible, try various techniques to cope with labor pains at home, birth in a hospital, have an epidural if needed and try modified labor and delivery positions.
I prepared my body and mind, visualizing my VBAC throughout the pregnancy. My due date came and went, and I felt anxious. I embraced my anxiety, but I chose not to stay in a fearful frame of mind. Due dates aren’t precise and she will come when she’s ready, I told myself. I meditated more and tried a few other natural ways to induce labor.
At 40 weeks + 2 days, I wasn’t feeling well and was working on my laptop from bed. Around 11:00am, my water broke! I was relieved, knowing that going into labor on my own increased my odds for a VBAC.
I called my husband, midwife and doula. If my contractions began anything like those from my first labor, I figured I had about 30-45 minutes before things got real. I took a shower and shaved, since I knew that there would be plenty of eyes on my girl parts. Priorities, haha!
My contractions began within about 30 minutes and were strong and consistent, just like the start of labor with my first baby. I used a contraction timing app and they averaged one minute, with about one minute of rest in between.
My husband got home (around 12pm), called my doula and midwife again, and both were pretty sure that I was already in active labor. I couldn’t talk through contractions, which were still about one minute long, one minute apart. My midwife gave me a maximum of 12 hours after my water broke until I had to come in, but I was pretty sure I’d be in before then.
Since my plan was to labor at home as long as possible, I got in the bathtub, dimmed the lights, listened to my labor playlist and drank coconut water to stay hydrated. The bathtub helped me to manage labor pains, but the contractions remained consistent.
Being in this relaxing environment allowed me to get inside my head and visualize my VBAC. It’s difficult to describe, but the hormonal changes that occur during labor put me in an altered state of consciousness. I groaned through contractions and it felt so primitive and natural. I understood why women would labor in the bathtub and I stayed in there as long as possible. By 2:30pm, my contractions had been consistent for about three hours and we decided that it was time to head to the hospital.
When I got out of the tub, I felt a rush of hormones and the contractions’ intensity increased from a 7 to 10 instantly. It was challenging to get dressed because I stopped every minute or so to rock, sway and moan through contractions. I had a hard time managing the labor pains after getting out of the tub.
The hospital was in downtown Chicago (about three miles away) and it was Friday afternoon, during Lollapalooza. I can’t remember how long it took to get there, only that there was a lot of traffic, I was very uncomfortable in the car and was very vocal. Sorry honey 😉
We reached the hospital around 4:00pm and my doula met us there. At this point, I was ready for the epidural. I was moaning and breathing through contractions, and spouted off a few crazy comments. I may have scared the hell out of the valet guys and the women working in triage. Sorry for what I said when I was laboring!
The triage nurse checked me and I was 4.5cm dilated. I was relieved to hear that my body was opening up, but I was also in pain and practically begging for the epidural at this point.
Husbands are not allowed in the room while the epidural is being administered, so my midwife sat with me. She held my hands as I had seven (or so) contractions that I cried through during the 20-minute process. I was distracted from the pain for a minute when I noticed how little her hands were. I figured that tiny hands were preferred if they were going to be all in my girl parts, haha! I said something along the lines of “…you have really tiny hands, that’s ideal for a midwife, huh?” Cool, I still have my sense of humor.
The labor pain went away immediately after the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. My midwife helped me lay down and I checked the time – 4:45pm. I was proud of myself for laboring without drugs for about five hours with consistent contractions that averaged one minute on, one minute off.
Labor With an Epidural
After getting an epidural, you aren’t allowed to walk around during labor. I used a peanut exercise ball to help my pelvis continue to open, switching sides regularly. We dimmed the lights in the room and I tried to get some rest. I wasn’t able to sleep because I was thinking about my son at home and I was anxious to meet my baby girl. After a strenuous five hours, I embraced this quiet ‘rest’ time.
Over the next few hours, I visualized my body opening up and talked to my baby through my belly, letting her know that she’s in a safe environment and I will be here with her on her journey. Oh, and I let her know that she can come out slowly and try not to tear mommy up on her way out! 😉
My midwife and the nurses checked on me regularly. Contractions were consistent and strong, my cervix continued to dilate and my baby was making her way down the birth canal. I never felt rushed or pressured by my support team. Rather, they were patient and believed in my body’s ability to labor.
At 9:00pm, I was about 9-10cm dilated and my midwife gave me the option to try pushing or she could come back in an hour to see how I felt. I chose to wait and gave the baby another hour to make her way down.
Pushing With an Epidural
By 10:00pm I was ready to start pushing. My midwife and doula helped me learn how to push during labor. It’s not as easy as it sounds! Once I got the hang of it, I was pushing with almost every contraction. I was grateful for the epidural, since I felt no pain, only pressure. Pushing was tiring and I coughed with each deep breath. I had what I thought was a cold for a few days. It progressed into pneumonia, but that part of the story is for another day!
There were a few moments while pushing that I remember feeling queasy. The nurse gave me something for nausea and my doula had ice chips and a cold compress for my forehead. My doula had such a calm and nurturing character, and was exactly what I needed during labor.
After two hours of pushing, my midwife said, “Nicole, she’s right there… do you want to Kardashian style reach down and pull her out?” You KNOW I did! It was glorious. I pulled her right up to me and held her on my chest, blood and all. I didn’t mind, it felt so natural.
I delivered my placenta and we delayed cord clamping until the umbilical cord was done pulsing. My midwife held up my placenta for a quick anatomy lesson, explaining the tree of life imagery on one side. Very cool. My doula bagged it up to prepare for placenta encapsulation.
For the record, Meredith Wu (my midwife) is nothing short of amazing! Her faith in the ability of a woman’s body and her genuine demeanor put me at ease. It’s clear that she loves what she does; I mean, look at that smile. 🙂
I Had a Successful VBAC!
My baby girl was born at 12:13am and weighed 9lb., 4oz. My birth went exactly as I had visualized, and she heard mama’s request not to tear me on the way out! 🙂 I looked at my husband and said, “I did it!” and cried tears of joy and accomplishment. I felt empowered by what my body was capable of. I felt the connection with my baby growing stronger every day for 40 weeks and she was finally here, in my arms. The first thing she did was nap for an hour. We understood each other.
Yes, I was already a Mom, but something changed in me again that day.
I love hearing your stories and I keep your comments close to my heart. Please share and pin my story so that we can normalize vaginal childbirth and VBACs.
“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” Ralph Waldo Emerson