I feel like the story of the birth of my son started weeks ago when I finally decided to pursue a VBAC (vaginal birth after a c-section) and I set about pulling together my team which included a doula, prenatal masseuse, prenatal chiropractor and acupuncturist. They were all super supportive of a TOLAC (trial of labor after a c-section) and made me feel empowered though deep down I was terrified I was making a mistake.
My water broke around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 18. I wasn’t sure if it had broken and didn’t decide to go to the hospital to check until around 8 p.m. They confirmed that it had broken but since I wasn’t in labor they said I could go home to get a good night’s rest. I would need to come back if contractions picked up or at the latest by 8 a.m. the next morning.
I went home excited that most likely our little guy would be here the next day. It was difficult to sleep that night. All kinds of scenarios kept running through my head and I kept waking to see if I was having any labor pains. My heart sunk when I got up the next morning with nothing new occurring. I felt like my path to a repeat C-section was starting before I even got the chance to fight.
The hospital is very close to my house so my husband and I decided to walk in hopes that it would cause the labor to pick up. My mom would drive the car over with our bag a little later. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to Elle. So many emotions were running through me: excitement to meet my little guy; sadness for Elle possibly being confused about mommy and daddy being gone; nervous anticipation on how everything I knew about our little family was about to change. I was pleasantly surprised at how well she acted with us leaving. I really couldn’t handle any tears or I would burst into them myself.
On the walk to the hospital, my husband and I talked about our new family and wondered what things were going to be like. We were both buzzing with adrenaline and up for the challenge ahead. We checked into the hospital and they set me up for monitoring. Typically a hospital requires that you go into labor 24 hours after your water breaks or they need to intervene with something that will kickstart labor like pitocin. Usually they would do this right away but since my case was special as I was pursuing a VBAC, they didn’t have that option. They would wait as long as they could before intervening. In my case that meant giving me a very conservative amount of pitocin.
Contractions were occurring but nothing in a pattern and nothing that was most likely making any changes. They didn’t want to check me because of my water breaking; it increases risk of infection when you check too much. Given I wasn’t really in labor, it didn’t make sense to do it.
Around 3 p.m., they started me up on pitocin. My doula showed up around then and she walked the halls with me for some time. Tom and I had already been walking them since that morning. My doula was a young woman about my age. I felt an instant connection with her. When I first heard the term doula, I pictured some old creepy woman though I'm not sure why. This wasn't Talia, my doula, at all. She could have just been a close friend there to support me.
When I checked in to the hospital, I was given the choice of an OB overseeing my labor or a midwife. I knew all the OBs and a handful of the midwives. I had discussed this with my doula beforehand and decided that I wanted a midwife overseeing my labor as they tend to be more attentive and delivering babies vaginally is their specialty. Given my case, I always had an OB checking in and being updated anyways in case anything should arise.
Day turned to night and while contractions had picked up a bit, nothing substantial was happening. We all decided to get some rest around 10 p.m. Little did I know my husband had been starting to feel ill that evening. I decided around Midnight that I wanted to take a shower. He helped me in and I sat with the water on back for a while, wondering what was to come. At this point, I hadn’t gotten much sleep and wasn’t sure if they were going to tell me we just weren’t progressing and that we would need to do a c-section. Around 2 a.m. the widwife came in to chat with me and said she thought it was time to take a look to see if we were making any progress. My stomach was in knots – what if I’d made no progress?!
Rather than put her hand in, she used a sterile speculum so there was less risk of an infection. Just as I/she suspected, I wasn’t dilated beyond 2. I was 50% effaced. I was devastated. I asked her what the plan was, again expecting to hear a disappointed tone but she said time. It just takes time for the body to respond. The baby was doing beautifully and I was doing fine with no fever so there was no reason to jump to any conclusions. She told me to rest.
A few minutes later I felt a gush of fluid. I called the nurse and she confirmed that my water had broken again! I guess the first bag was a hind bag that was up top and was a slow leak. The second was a fore bag with more of a gush and this was a good thing because it meant the baby wasn’t floating anymore and could put pressure on my cervix.
Almost immediately contractions picked up. It was around this time that Tom said he wasn’t feeling well and ended up being ill in the bathroom on three different occasions. My doula was able to talk to the midwife about taking him to the ER for fluids so down to the ER he went while I entered into active labor and was moved to a labor/delivery room. I had been in a triage room. As the hours ticked by, my contractions got stronger and I took them one at a time. I was under the impression that an epidural pretty much stopped my labor last time around so I was putting it off as long as I could. My nurses, doula and midwife were there to support me wherever they could, putting pressure on my back, getting me juice/water, helping me change positions, etc.
Around 8 a.m., they decided to check me again. I was in knots again. This time, I was 100% effaced but only 4 cm dilated. 4!! These contractions were killer. How was I going to make it to 10? By now I had nearly been at the hospital for 24 hours with maybe 2 hours sleep. We got a new change of staff and I was elated to hear that the midwife who had originally spoken with me about the VBAC at my first prenatal appointment was coming on. My new nurse took one look at my exhausted doula and told her to take a nap and she would take over.
My nurse never left me, helped me in the shower and with different positions, etc. Talia and I were both grateful. By this point I was riveting in pain. Each contraction was dreaded but anticipated. The pain was my best friend and my worst enemy. I needed it to make progress. With each contraction I kept breathing focusing on when it would start to subside.
Around 11 a.m., they checked me again. I felt for sure I had made some progress. Talia and I talked before they did the check and decided that if we were still where we were before then we would try something different: the epidural. At this point, my body was exhausted and I couldn’t keep this up without making any progress. Unfortunately, I was still only at 4 cm. As soon as I was told this, I said, “I want the epidural.” They said, “Do you want to think about it?” I said, “No. I want it now. Whatever I’m doing isn’t working and I can’t keep going.”
They set off to find the anesthesiologist and came back with word that he was performing an epidural now and should be with me in 15 minutes. 15 minutes!?? How was I going to last that long? I stood at the side of the hospital bed riveting in pain with each contraction. Tom had gotten back an hour or so before, with three bags of fluids and nausea medication in him. He looked much better though was still very weak. He stood by my side holding my hand while I cried. I cried because it hurt; I cried because I felt so stupid for attempting this. What was I trying to prove? Was I going to go through all this and possibly have complications from the c-section and an even harder recovery when I was attempting an easier one? I could hear Tom crying too. It touched my heart to know he felt my pain and my heart swelled with love.
I kept trying to do math like if I have contractions every 2 minutes, how many would that equal in a 15 minute span. I lost count but when I finally asked Talia, she had said it had been an hour. An hour?!! Where was he? I sent her to look. I was beginning to get suspicious that they were postponing it. He was still in the same room. I sent Tom to see what was going on. He said the same thing. A nurse came in and offered Fentanyl. I said, “Give me something!” A few minutes later, the anesthesiologist appeared. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The epidural process was much better and much worse than with my daughter. Better because the anesthesiologist was great, explaining everything to me. Worse because my contractions were incredibly painful and I had to sit completely still through them. I had three contractions during the process. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. What was even worse if I could still feel the contractions for at least 15 minutes after that. And, those contractions were different, much more painful, or at least I think they would have been if not for the epidural. I started feeling pressure in my pelvis. I shared this with my nurse. She said, “Let’s see what’s going on here” and checked me. She said, “You are at an 8!”
Oh my goodness! Relief, happiness, awe flowed through my body. I wasn’t sure if it was the last hour of labor before the epidural or the epidural that did it, but I didn’t care. We were almost there, or at least to 10. I wouldn’t let myself get ahead of myself for fear that I wouldn’t make it. What if I got to 10 and pushed and pushed and pushed and it still didn’t happen?
They told me to take a nap and they would check me again in two hours. They didn’t have to tell me twice. I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. I woke up a little before they were supposed to come and check me. I could still feel my contractions – they were actually somewhat painful and I was so thankful that I had the epidural to tame them.
The midwife came in and checked me. She said, “There is no cervix – you are at a 10! Let’s give you another hour to rest and then start pushing.”
Holy moly!! I was at a 10! This was really happening or at least we were on our way to trying. An hour later, they came in to do a trial of pushing. I wasn’t sure what a trial meant but I was pretty sure it sounded like a test that I wanted to pass.
Around 3 p.m. we began pushing. After a few pushes it seemed clear that we were going to continue pushing until the baby came. About five contractions in, the baby’s heart rate dropped. Not to nothing but lowered enough where they turned me on one side, then on another and brought the doctor in and began talking about a vacuum. My doula told us, “If the baby’s heart rate doesn’t come up they will put the vacuum on to bring the baby down. If it pops off three times, they will need to do a c-section.” Tom and I locked eyes. My heart dropped. My first priority was a healthy baby but it did also hurt to come this far for this to happen. But, I was going to do whatever it took to have a healthy baby.
Thankfully his heart rate came up. From then on, we pushed every other contraction so as not to put him in distress. This also gave me a nice break to get my strength back. I honestly think doing the Bar Method throughout my pregnancy helped maintain my stamina during pushing. Two hours passed by very quickly. They lowered the epidural so I could feel a little more so I could tell if pushing was working. They also brought a mirror over so I could see what progress was being made. Let me just say this was something I would have never thought I would want. I said I would try it and after things got going, I really did feel like it was helping. I was also pretty shocked that my husband could handle seeing what was going on as well.
Towards the end of my labor, I got a low fever. If I had the fever for two hours, they would need to put me on antibiotics which would put a hold on the pushing and would also require lab tests being conducted on the baby.
My midwife and nurse were supposed to go off at 7 p.m. but they had been with me since 7 a.m. that morning. They wanted to see this baby born. They, along with Tom and the doula, had been cheering me on for the past 3 hours without wavering. Every push they were there encouraging me, never tiring.
Unfortunately my fever held on and they had to put in the order for antibiotics. My team continued to have me push while the antibiotics were fetched. It was so frustrating because at this point, I could see the baby’s head with each push. Each time I felt it was going to be last but I could only push/hold my breath for so long.
Yet, after they left the room for the antibiotics, I knew I needed to get this baby out. By this time, there were probably 10 people in the room from the midwife, nurse, doula, Tom, OB, the new midwife and nurse coming on, nurses who had assisted me the day before, even my primary OB. It sounds crazy but they were all there rooting me on. I never thought I’d be comfortable with that many people looking down there but they see it on a daily basis and I was too far gone to even care about that. I was having a baby!
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and pushed with all my might. I just let the words of encouragement from those around me tell that he was coming, he was coming! Cheers were heard around the room and the midwife said, “reach down and take your baby.” I never thought I would do something like this but I reached down and pulled my son the rest of the way out and pulled him to my chest. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I pulled him to me and he took his first cries.
After 3 ½ hours of pushing, we did it! We really did it, baby. Elation, relief, awe ran through me. I relished the hour that I had Reid on my chest after he was born.
The midwife, nurses and my doula all commented on what a big boy he was! I still was convinced he was smaller than my daughter and was shocked to hear he weighed 9 lbs! 9 lbs!? How is that possible? I almost felt like laughing because it was crazy to think the doctors at the other hospital told me I had a c-section because my daughter who was 8 lbs, 9 oz was too big.
I’m so grateful to the women who empowered me to believe that I could do this and for the midwife and nurses who stayed half an hour past their shift end to deliver my son. I’m thankful for my husband who was fully supportive of this decision and was by my side rooting me on even though he felt terrible. I truly believe more women could have a vaginal birth if they were given more time, support and the chance to have a trial of labor.