The day we found out we were pregnant with our second, we were ecstatic. Our son had recently turned 2 and we just knew being a family of four was going to be an amazing adventure that would bring us so much joy and love. I had my heart set on a midwife. I wanted to bring this baby into the world through the most gentle water birth experience I could imagine, surrounded by love. I wanted empowerment – the opposite of my first birth. My first birth left me with an inverted-T scar that I later found out was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I had never been allowed to labor and every choice from how my son entered the world to how I was allowed to bond and interact with him in those first few days was decided for me with no regard to my wishes. A VBAC was what I wanted and I wanted it away from the hospital with my son close by and my husband by my side.
We searched but quickly found out that midwives in Texas were discouraged from taking on women with special scars for out-of-hospital births. With heavy hearts, we started sorting through our choices. However, none seemed right for us. Hospital-based midwives gave no support and every OB we talked to came back with a firm “no” to the VBAC with my scar type. We ended up doing constant research trying to make sense of what was the best choice for our baby. All my efforts added up to say one thing: the VBAC risk was less than the risk of multiple c-sections and the benefits of natural birth was well worth it for us. At the very least, I wanted the chance to try.
Just as we were starting becoming discouraged, we heard about an OB an hour away who was known for VBAC. After much pushing to get in to see him, we got an appointment and he not only said yes to us trying to VBAC but actually took the time to talk me through my fears of a hospital birth. He truly believed I could do this! We were left with this amazingly easy pregnancy and so much joy as we enjoyed our last months of a family of three.
I hit the 41 week mark with the feeling that this pregnancy was far from over. My solutions were some herbs, positive thinking, the chiropractor and lots of walking in hopes of motivating our daughter to come into our world. I even took Raz hiking on a cliff which just set off false labor and got our hopes up. We were happy waiting for her to be ready but I just knew that once 42 weeks hit, our choices would be limited.
Sure enough, 42 weeks came and we spent that morning at the park playing with Raz. We had a picnic and I remember just looking up into the tree, knowing in my heart that this was the last time I would really have to spend with Raz as my only child. I walked these beautiful stairs that were hidden in a wooded steep area in hopes of jumpstarting labor. I talked to our inside baby explaining that it may be a good idea to come soon and then returned to the park area to play with Raz. After that, we dropped Raz off and went to our appointment.
Our OB said he could not let us go much longer. Even great doctors have limitations and a 42 week pregnancy was one of those. I did not want him to do anything to start labor for me but we had decided if it came down to it, we would let him try and sweep my membranes. He checked me and I was not dilated past a 1 and still high. Membrane sweeping was not an option at the moment. He said we could start me on a tiny dose of pitocin in the morning to try to jump start labor. Ideally, we would come in and be dilated a bit more and we could skip the pit and try to sweep membranes again. I was not too fond of this idea at all. Special scar VBAC plus pitocin was not optimal in my eyes and for sure not in my birth plan. On the other hand my doctor is known for his VBAC’s and had delivered many special scars so I did trust him…
He sat in front of me and said that I could do this, that I was always so positive and happy at my appointments and joked that he and my husband would just watch in awe as I labored like a champ tomorrow. He was the rare doctor who actually seemed to truly care. He explained that if I went with the pitocin option, it would only be a tiny dose to start labor and we would raise it slowly, never going near a full dose. He reminded me that our options were limited, that he could not let me go longer but that it was my choice how I delivered our child. I did not want to have a c-section without trying for my VBAC. I felt the risk was much higher with repeat c-sections. When he left, I cried.
I called my doula, Suzan and let her know what was going on. She helped me calm down and focus. There was still a small chance I could kick start labor. There was still hope of doing this with no induction!
I called the best chiropractor I could find, the one I heard had a magic touch with starting labor. She was closed for the day but happily agreed to meet me anyways. She worked on me for almost two hours while my son and husband played near me. She was amazing and soon we had strong and regular contractions going! I was elated!
We went home and put Raz to bed. My husband made me this beautiful salad with pork chops and the contractions kept coming. My mom was staying at our home so I talked to her for a bit, made sure the bags were packed since we would need them in the morning no matter what, and my husband and I took a long shower together. I called my doula again to let her know we had contractions still and so we could make plans for tomorrow. We hoped that those plans would not even be needed. We were sure that I would be calling her in the middle of the night knowing we had true labor.
Gus and I laid in bed cuddling and trying to get to sleep. We were both excited and thought for sure we had at least made enough progress to just sweep my membranes and skip pitocin, and honestly we expected to be up in a few hours with stronger contractions. The contractions stayed regular most of the night but never got too strong to sleep through. They started to slow down by morning. I was still glad we had went to the chiropractor though. She had got me into a mental zone where I was ready to do this even if it was not the exact way I wanted.
I guess now is a good time to note that I had a hoarse voice for days before this. I could barely talk and sounded so funny. It was worse than ever on this day so I went through the whole birth day with a silly sounding hoarse voice.
We got dressed, ate some oatmeal, and I spent extra time cuddling with Raz before we headed out to drop Raz off with his Mimi and drive the hour to the hospital. We checked in and went to the room where we met our nurse, answered a crazy amount of questions and got hooked up to the fetal monitor before I had my IV placed. I was really bummed about all the wires. The original plan was an all-natural VBAC with minimal monitoring. I was supposed to be able to walk the halls and labor free of wires at least some of the time. My hope was that we would get labor started enough that I could soon be liberated from the wires and birth as I had planned.
Finally, my doctor came in. He had a big smile on his face and a very positive attitude. He was very pleased about the nurse assigned to us and checked me. I was still very high and a 1. I felt a bit let down. I thought last night would have at least done something to my cervix and had truly hoped for a membrane sweep. My doctor sat beside me and explained that he would not put me on full pitocin and we would never go above a 20. He just wanted to help me get my labor started. He also said that he wanted me to think about it for a moment and make sure I was ok since he knew I truly did not want to be on pit. He explained that I was one of his most laid back patients (he had obviously forgot the first meeting we had where I cried when telling my sons birth story complete with snot and all) and for the first time he noticed that I truly looked full-on stressed and worried. He told me that he thought I could do this and would be monitoring me closely but, in the end, I had to be ok with the choice. He left with a big smile and my husband and I talked.
We knew our only true options were induction or the surgery at this point. I knew we had to try because I wanted my VBAC so bad. I looked at Gus and told him with certainty that I wanted this and he kissed me. From then on, we were positive and strong.
The nurse came in and started the pitocin on a very low setting. She joked that our daughter would be a red head; she had to be fiery since she refused to stay on the fetal monitor. I was starting to feel more relaxed and when the nurse wrote “Happy Birthday Lola” on the board my heart raced. I smiled because I knew I was on my way to meeting our little girl.
Gus pulled a chair beside me and held my hand. I was shocked that the contractions came so fast. Gus started doing some relaxation exercises to help me stay calm. He laid out this beautiful scene from our family beach trip. Our doula showed up very soon after that.
The nurse had to keep coming in because Lola would not stay on the fetal monitor and staying still was such a pain. I layed on my side for as long as I could but it was torture. I felt like I should be moving. We joked around a lot and tried to keep the mood light at first. My mom stopped by to visit for a few minutes and Gus and Susan kept me laughing and relaxed. At that point, that was what I needed. Gus became a bit fascinated with the contraction monitor. He could tell when my contraction was about to start and I think seeing how timable and long they were was exciting for him. Lola’s heart would get faster during each contraction but Susan assured us that she had a great heartbeat. Her pulse was still looking in normal range for labor (natural non-induction labor even), which was amazing since we were on the pitocin!
The pitocin contractions felt so different than the real contractions I had the night before, they were longer and seemed to go on forever… much different then the wave like contractions that come on naturally. Regardless, I stayed off the pain medication.
Finally ,we decided that staying on my side was not helping with Lola coming down and I started sitting up in bed, pushing for more positions. We wanted to get me out of the bed but Lola would not stay on for anything. Every time we moved into a new position, a nurse came in to check on the monitor. It became apparent that we would be in bed a bit longer. I began to focus on imagining my baby coming down and my cervix opening.
I told Gus he should take a nap while he could and Susan went to lunch leaving me to nap as well. I was shocked that I immediately fell asleep. I woke up briefly through the contractions but handled them well enough that I would fall back asleep without noticing. Suddenly, I was very awake as my contractions shifted and became even stronger. Luckily, Susan came back within minutes and we started to know it was time to focus more intensely. Gus woke up and we started using essential oils. It felt so nice to start the oils and I found that breathing through contractions was very natural for me. We had an oil that needed to go on my belly but all the fetal monitors were in the way and I did not want to bring the nurses back in when I was just getting in my zone. Gus ended up bringing it into me later when I was in the bathroom. I thought it was really sweet that he remembered.
The lights were dim, the room smelled amazing and my birthing soundtrack Gus had made me was playing faintly.
I sent Gus out to get himself a snack. He had been by my side holding my hand and I knew he was probably hungry. While he was gone, my doctor came in and checked me. No progress. I was crushed. He asked me how aggressive I wanted him to be while continuing and I panicked a bit. I knew I did not want stronger pitocin then a 20 with my scar and I began babbling a bit with no idea what to say. My doula was holding my hand while he checked me and she calmly explained that he was not wanting to up my pit but instead wanted to break my water and asked if I was ok with that. When he did, I was so excited when I felt that gush of water. I had always wondered what that felt like. I was a bit sad that it had not broke on its own but it was exhilarating. All I can compare it to is a rushing river. The doctor also put in an internal monitor so I could labor by my bed instead of in it. Gus came back in a few minutes later and my contractions were stronger than ever! I was shocked how fast the strength amped up.
The doctor let us know that Lola was still high up so we needed to get on the birthing ball and start moving. I sat on the ball with legs wide as I could manage and begin moving my hips in circles and figure eights. It felt so natural and amazing to be out of bed and able to move about. Susan left the room to give Gus and I some time alone. This was one of my favorite moments of labor. I was sitting on my labor ball doing my figure eights and leaning onto the bed with Gus sitting on the other side of the bed, leaning forward and holding my hands. He was looking into my eyes and suddenly I just let go in midst of a strong contraction. My mind blended into the labor music and I just cried. I’m not even sure what I was crying about but my son passed through my mind a lot; I missed him. It felt so amazing to just have that release. Gus just held my hands and kept eye contact, keeping me grounded and safe within our bubble. I just focused on the way his hands felt in mine and looked into his eyes. He was so strong for me and in that time I had the laboring moment of which I had always dreamed. Nothing can take that away from us. The love and strength we had together was powerful and I knew that I was ready to be a family of four and bring a new life into this world. I knew our love made her and no matter what we would be happy. Finally, he kissed me and we went on laboring with a new outlook.
Susan came back in and we hit positions hard. We never would have known what to do without her. We tried all sorts of crazy positions to bring baby down. Some were so uncomfortable but Gus and Susan helped me stay focused and I breathed through the contractions. We lunged, we laid, we rolled, we bent and we pressed. Even though it was uncomfortable and painful, I was happy I could move and contort in hopes it would push Lola down further. I don’t even want to know what the nurses were thinking when they walked in on me hanging off the bed with my huge belly!
It went on like this forever. It is all a blur but at one point we were checked again and had made next to no progress still. The doctor said he would be back in at 7 PM to see where we were at and at that point, if we had still made no progress, we would have to decide how long we would want to push and how far it would be to reach our stopping point.
I don’t remember much of the details of the next few hours. I was in complete focus mode. I remember Gus sitting behind me, squeezing my belly through contraction after contraction, trying to help Lola move down in hopes of my cervix opening. I went to the bathroom as much as possible just to move away from the bed and try to clear room for Lola to come down. Mostly, I remember that I had so much love and support. I breathed through each contraction, focusing on my relaxing music and imagining sunflowers blooming, my baby dropping, and my cervix opening. Gus kept kissing my cheek and I found myself going inside myself more and more as I focused on bringing baby down and avoided looking at the clock.
When the doctor came back in, I had made zero progress. He told me this was my decision; he would not push me to stop. I had labored for over 12 hours with no progress and he explained to me that more than likely my scar tissue from the inverted-T was making it where Lola could not drop down. Maybe my contractions were not reaching that point or maybe she just could not get through it. In my heart, I knew it was the scar holding me back. Maybe we were not as far along as they had thought and she was just not ready, the thought of this was heart breaking. I held back tears and the doctor told me he was going to give me some time to decide. He said I could feel free to keep going but that at some point, I had to decide that I was ready to move on. He would not rush me and I truly believe that if my heart desired, I could have labored for days without progress, without him making the decision for me. He knew I had to decide on my own.
Susan held my hand for a second and left the room to give Gus and me time. I wept and apologized a hundred times. I was so lost in that moment and Gus could only console me and tell me how proud he was of my effort. I stopped to breathe through contractions still and tried to search for the right answer inside myself. Gus gave me the time I needed and kept kissing me softly and holding me close, knowing I needed him now more than ever. Finally, I looked at the pitocin dripping into the IV and at my baby’s heart rate on the screen. She had been tough and had a heart rate that never got overly high through a pitocin birth. I never wanted her to be subject to pitocin and I wanted her to be in my arms and safe. I did not want to push her and I wondered how long it would be until the pit would affect her. I put my hand on my belly and asked her softly what she needed from me. I knew right then that I had to make my decision because it was mine to make. If I made my decision, it was on my terms and this whole enthralling experience could still end memorable. I had been told under three years ago that my uterus would rupture if I labored and after 12 hours of laboring, it stayed intact! I had been told I should never carry a baby past 36 or 37 weeks and I had carried her for 42 weeks! I had been warned to maybe even consider never having another child due to this scar and there I was, about to have my baby girl! I had built this pregnancy on making my own choices and this was going to be no different. I could still make my choice.
Could I labor more? Yes, I could. I could go 12 more hours, I had it in me. I knew I was strong and my body was meant to labor. But in my heart, I knew that was not going to dilate. After 12 hours of pitocin, my baby needed to be safe in my arms. She was not meant to be pushed and pulled by unnatural means. She was holding up beautifully but I was not going to magically start dilating – it was time. I wanted one final thing – to labor for a short while without the pitocin.
The staff unhooked me and my body kept laboring.The experience was empowering. At some point, the birth photographer came in and I was still crying but feeling stronger. Susan talked to the doctor and he made accommodations for us to still have a great experience that was as different as could be from the last c-section. I labored with Gus at my side and with no help from the pitocin. The mood in the room slowly changed. I started to feel excited and I knew in my heart that I had a wonderful gift of being able to labor. While I was sad about the repeat c-section, I would soon be meeting my little girl.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to feel my body in labor with no artificial help. We had a nurse change in that time and a super sweet younger nurse was assigned to me. Her sweet personality was perfect at the time because she was laid back and blended in nicely with my birth team. The mood in that time slowly changed from defeated to excited. My mom arrived and everyone joked around and talked happily about how soon we would be meeting Lola. We had so much love and support in that room that the warmth could light a fire.
My nurse helped me prepare for the surgery and soon it was time for me to go back. My mom helped me put on the hospital socks and Gus kissed me, promising to be by my side as soon as he could. My nurse even let me walk to surgery myself. For some reason I appreciated this…it just made me feel more in control.
We had a small incident where a nurse who was not even a part of our team got a bit worked up over the fact that we were going about things a bit different. Our doctors, nurse, and head nurse were all 100% ok with the way we were doing things but I guess they were not the typical way. She yelled down the hall while I was walking but my nurse handled herself so well and honestly it did not phase me since I was so in my head as I walked down that hall. Everyone had dictated my every move for me with my first c-secton and I was not going to let that happen again. I knew there had to be a better way.
We walked into the bright, stark, cold operating room and I had a small second of panic. I quickly took a deep breath and reminded myself that this would be different than last time. I sat on the table and had another contraction. I was a bit sad as I leaned against my nurse while they put in the spinal block. I kept thinking about all the love I had through labor. I focused on my special moments with Gus and thought about Raz and how seeing him as a big brother was going to be magical. I thought about meeting Lola and how I would soon have her in my arms. Before I knew it, I was laid down. The anesthesiologist was comforting and he gave me something for my nausea the second it arose. This kind man and my nurse kept me company until my husband came in.
Gus was in his silly c-section gear with this screen over his face. He sat beside me. I was having issues keeping my eyes open and I was trying to fight the drowsiness because I wanted to stay in the moment. They put some oxygen on me because I started having ragged breathing and Gus held my hand and talked through our beach scene for me. I actually felt peaceful and drifty as time went by. I went back and forth between staring into Gus’s eyes and just going into my head.
Soon, I heard a cry. She was earthside.
Gus went with Lola the second he had the opportunity. I knew that he was talking to her and touching her at every moment to make sure she had warmth and a familiar loving voice. I yearned to have her on my chest and against my skin. This was the part of birth I craved most and not being the first face she saw out of the womb killed me. But, at least she had her Daddy at her side. Suzan came back to sit with me. She kept talking to me, helping me stay in the moment.
Finally, Gus sat by me, Lola in his arms. She had a beautiful head of dark hair and adorable chubby cheeks, just like me and Raz. In our wedding vows, Gus had told me he wanted to have kids with my chubby cheeks. In fact, one of the first things Gus ever said about Raz was that he had my cheeks. Now, we had two kids with those kissable cheeks.
I kissed her over and over with the help of Gus. She stared into my eyes and I felt a stab of sadness that she was not naked on my chest at this very second. She was 9 lbs 2 oz and born at 10:28 PM. I loved her the second I saw her and could not believe she was, at long last, here with us.
I kept glowing; I was so happy to finally have my little girl here with us.
Finally, they wheeled me to recovery. My mom came in and told me how beautiful she was and soon Gus brought Lola to me. I held her close and Gus helped me untie my gown. She latched on instantly – she had the strongest latch and the softest skin! I just stared at her while she fed and started unwrapping her.
They later removed the oxygen so I could get really close to her. She kept opening her big eyes and staring up into my face. At last, I laid her against my chest with my bare skin against hers, warming her up with my own body heat and smelling her newborn aroma. The skin to skin contact did not come near as quick as I would have liked but I was shocked how close I still felt to her. Gus sat by me and we watched as our lovely little Lola.
In the days following, we kept Lola by our side. She was against my skin almost constantly and no one really bothered us or tried to take her away like they did routinely after the birth of my son. We delayed her bath so she could keep her vernex for as long as possible. We did not get the initial skin contact so we were determined to have as much as possible afterwards.
We cuddled and constantly breastfed. I was sore but was determined to walk as much as possible. On Sunday, they inevitably released us. We loaded Lola up in the car and drove home picking up Raz on the way. Ultimately, we were home and a family of four! I can’t begin to describe the feeling of having so much love in your heart it doubles in size – and overflows my joy as I watch Raz and Lola every day.
I hurt in my heart a bit because I wanted this VBAC so immensely. I was so close I could taste it. A part of me will always be a bit disappointed that neither of my children entered the world in the way I feel they should have. I don’t know if I will ever get to experience pushing a baby out into the world and pulling them straight to my chest, but I still hold on to hope that I can one day.
But for now, I know that I got to labor and was able to make my own choices and for that, I feel empowered. I was able to labor for over 12 hours, surrounded by love and support. I got to bond through labor with my amazing husband and I got to trust my body and know my scar could hold up to the miracle of birth. Maybe most importantly, I was “allowed” to make my own choices.
I think this proves that if you give a woman the ability and the right to make her own choices, she will be empowered and a greater woman in the end. I am still shocked that while a part of my heart hurts, another part feels healed, oddly enough. I faced my fears, I tried my best, and while the outcome was not exactly what I wanted, I had some amazing moments that I think I truly needed to have to heal from my first birth.