As I sit here over 6 years after my c-section, I now realize that it has taken me this long to put my journey into words. Being strapped to the operating table as my first baby was removed from my body felt gruesome and unnatural. My dreams of a home-birth were crushed because of my prior health conditions, and the midwives at my preferred practice refused to see me. My induced labor at 38 weeks was followed by a spiral of events that eventually ended in a C-section. It left me feeling empty, exhausted and weeping. As I was being stitched back together on the operating table, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) next time. My doctor at the time assured me there was nothing structural that would prevent me; my baby had not been ready to be born…
In November of 2012, a positive pregnancy test gave me a second chance to write a new birth journey. I started by persuading the midwives to agree to co-care with the OB in the same practice. The deal was to see the OB one week, then a midwife the next week. The OB approved the arrangement…My next move was to find a doula that I was completely comfortable with. My office manager at the time, Noelle happened to be finalizing her doula certification and needed a few more births to complete her program. I continued my already established healthful habits, took Birthing Again (Birth You Desire ) classes, and continued my Zumba workouts well into my 38th week of pregnancy. As long as I continued with a healthy lifestyle and pregnancy, the odds of a successful VBAC were in my favor.
Birthing Again (Birth You Desire )
When I went for my regular midwife appointment at almost 39 weeks, she wanted to do a few tests which indicated to me that I was dilating; though at 39 weeks, I still had some time before I was due. Being induced with my first pregnancy, however, didn’t give me much insight into how long I typically would carry babies. I watched the clock anxiously knowing that, as a high-risk pregnancy, it would be unlikely that I would be supported beyond 40 weeks.
And, so the birth saga begins…
The initial excitement started when I felt contractions over the weekend. Subsiding on Monday morning, saw 30 patients like a boss, and then the contractions came back fast by Monday night and continued off and on into the next day.
Even with my contractions 12 minutes apart, I still made it in to see patients that day. My contractions steadily continued through the afternoon and intensified throughout lunch with Noelle. I vividly remember sitting at the restaurant while breathing through heavy waves of pain; likely with contorted expressions on my face. Lovely ladies were inquiring about my obvious distress…Still, I was determined to eat my hamburger so I spitefully scarfed it down as the back to back contractions grew stronger.
After lunch, I headed to an appointment with the OB. Although it wasn’t quite time for another check-up, I was leaking fluid and I thought that maybe my water broke, nevermind that I had anxiety about the appointment. I would like to make it very clear that shifting gears with a stick shift vehicle while laboring is very difficult and that I do not recommend driving a manual car while laboring. With that said, even though my contractions were 6 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute each, I made it to my appointment.
I am a determined woman.
A test concluded that my water did not break and that more laboring was ahead of me. With a sympathetic face and slightly optimistic eyebrow raise, the OB said, “Maybe I’ll see you tonight?” While I appreciated his attempt at optimism, this was already feeling like a long and hard labor, and I was beginning to think that I was never going to have this baby.
The intense waves of contractions began. At 3 am, they had picked up to 2 minutes apart, then died down to 6 minutes apart. Noelle stayed with me most of the night; even taking me on a moonlit walk while I moaned with every intensifying pain. Soon after my husband and Noelle took me to the hospital. I was excited because I really thought that I was going to give birth that night, but I tried to compose myself and manage my expectations. In my mind, I was only 2 centimeters dilated. Unfortunately, I was right. I was checked by the on-call midwife and she confirmed that I was only 2 cm. I was sent home to rest and told to take a Benadryl if I had trouble sleeping.
The daylight hours of Wednesday were a difficult game of waiting. I was restless, tired, and conflicted. All means of progressing my labor were utilized as I was in and out of the bath, squatting, and using essential oils and homeopathic remedies for most of the day. I later visited the chiropractor for an adjustment who commented: “Wow, you’ve been in labor all week!” Yeah, I know….
Soon after being adjusted, my contractions became very intense again, but I felt better; more energized.
The contractions began to show the same pattern again in the early morning around 2 am; as my labor has now been known to do. The three of us strolled into the hospital again. I was initially sent home, then finally at 4 am we returned to the hospital again. My contractions were insanely intense and my labor had lasted longer than expected, so the midwife recommended an injection of morphine and Phenergan. Obviously, I wanted to avoid the medication as I was trying for a birth that was free from interventions, but I was exhausted from laboring so long with little progression. I was already so proud of my body for coming this far. “I need to be open to trying what they recommend”, I thought to myself, replaying the words of my birthing again class.
The cocktail did work, but to add to the drama of the journey, the nurse who administered the injection missed my glute, hit my sciatic notch, and triggered some intense left glute pain and sciatica. Pain again clenched my whole body like a vise grip. Thankfully, the medication’s effect was a welcomed relief as I was able to sleep for a few hours. After a restful 2 hour nap, I was evaluated to be sure that I could walk before I was sent home. But, not before the midwife applied clary sage oil directly to my cervix, per my request. I had not dilated more but my baby went from engaged to +1 so some progress. Once home, I thought that I should try to sleep more so I took another Benadryl as suggested. This was a huge mistake as my body was already rested and my labor had progressed while I was asleep. I was now rested and tired (Because of Benadryl) at the same time… And all of a sudden I was in the middle of the day in massive contraction patterns.
My emotions were running very high Thursday afternoon. I was feeling at a loss for what to do because I didn’t want to end up back at the hospital only to hear that I had not progressed. I was even more afraid of having interventions that might lead to another c-section. I had to do some soul searching and I asked everyone on my support team, “What should I do?”
On Thursday evening, we left for the hospital one last time. I was waving the white flag…By the time I arrived, I was in complete agony and I felt like my left hip was being torn in half. As I moaned like a dying animal from the pain, Noelle held all of her body weight on me trying to provide relief. The pain was unbearable and I was starting to succumb- ready to give up. When I heard that I went from 2 cm to 4 cm dilated while being checked, I started to feel hopeful. Still, there were a few obstacles to overcome. I learned that my son’s head wasn’t properly tucking and that my time may be running out. The midwife understood why I didn’t want more medication, after all, it was a similar spiral of events that lead to a c-section in the first place. But, she explained that it was better to get the baby out sooner rather than later because of my fatigue. (We found out later why: that he had had a twice wrapped nuchal cord.)
She recommended an epidural followed by Pitocin as I needed to rest and progress labor quickly. Of course, I had a few conditions. I wanted to be sure that I did absolutely everything that I could to avoid another c-section if at all possible. When the nurse came in to start the Pitocin just before she left she told us to get her if I felt the urge to poop. Then I slept for three to four “blissful” (ha!) hours while Noelle turned me from side to side with a pillow between my knees. Thankfully for her, I never needed to be on my back while in labor.
I bolted upright at 3 ish am on Friday, eyes wide and with all sincerity said to Noelle, “I have to poop.” Noelle jumped out of her seat and bolted out of the room. She returned with an entire birth team, gloved and ready. As they entered the room they kept the lights off. I thought, “Why in the heck are they working in the dark?” I was still a little disoriented and forgot that I had requested for the lights to be dimmed in my birth plan. The midwife said, “Okay, you are fully effaced and 10 cm dilated, it’s time to wake your husband because you are ready to push. And, she continued “Oh, and lets back off of the epi.” As per my request, the epidural was also turned off for delivery.
Holy ring of fire!
My husband had been sleeping soundly in the same room when all the commotion started. He was up and ready to catch the baby and cut the cord in no time. But first, I had to deliver our baby. After pushing for some time, I tried to sit up to use gravity to my advantage. It didn’t work so well since the epidural hadn’t worn off yet. I finally settled on my side with my legs supported and pushing. I was just getting weak and tired again when the midwife very calmly says, “So, there is a little blood here Kat, and the baby needs to come out.”
That’s it, get this baby OUT!
Instincts took over and my body did what it was designed to do; I delivered a human! Yes! Vagina! Out of my vagina! I was like She-Ra: Princess of Power! 2.25 hours later!
And, we welcomed my baby boy into this world.
Here is my doula Noelle with baby Julian. You can learn more about her here.