Ever since my first birth resulted in an “emergency” c-section, I knew I wanted a VBAC. Uninformed and uneducated heading into my first birth, I knew my priority was to change that for my second. I spent a full year reading birthing books, engaging with ICAN chapters, attending birth expos in my community, etc. Wish I had done all of that with my first. That’s my number one tip for new moms now – be educated and informed!
Anyway, we started trying for baby number two when my first turned one. It took nine months and we finally conceived. So there was thirty months in between births. I had started Maya Abdominal Therapy – to help with conception, but also to help with scar tissue, and all the other amazing things Maya can do for a mamma. My massage therapist was also my doula.
Funny how every birth is different. My first was born at 39 weeks. My second I started getting braxton hicks between 30-32 weeks and I thought I might go into labor anytime after that. I was confident I’d go early. Figures she didn’t make her entrance until 40 weeks 1 day. The last few weeks leading up to her due date, I started to get ancy. I really wanted my VBAC and I was worried my midwife would push induction on me. And actually, she did talk to me about it, but baby was born before we had to actually make a decision about what to do. But at the first mention of the word induction, I was doing almost everything I could to bring on labor naturally. I’m not sure that any of it worked, but it was worth a shot.
So even though each birth and labor is different, there were similarities. With each, I started to lose my mucous plug 3 days before labor started. And with each labor, period like cramps preceded actual contractions.
So, when I finally had a hunch that labor was starting, all I could think was bring it on. Open, open, open. It was about 9:45am from my first feeling of crampiness. I walked for a few hours, went home had a bath, did some more walking, and birth ball bouncing. My husband came home from work around 2:00/2:30 and I told him it might be real, but might not be. I could still easily walk and talk and it had stopped for a short period in the middle of the day. We headed to pick up my son from daycare at 3:00 and thought we’d call my mom to line up arrangements for my oldest in case it was real. By 4:10, I was pretty confident it was real. I called my mom back saying come get him as quickly as you can.
Our plan was to labor at home as long as possible. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed in myself when I was ready to head to the hospital at 6:30pm (less than 7 hours after contractions started). Contractions were 4 minutes apart, lasting 45 to 50 seconds long. We got to our room about 7:00 and although I said I didn’t want any cervical checks, I decided to allow one. I was almost a six, fully effaced and a +1 station. Ok….better than expected. Although I knew it was best to stand up, move around, etc, I was also doing Bradley Method and all I really wanted was to climb in bed and relax. I needed to do 20 minutes with fetal heart monitors, which I also didn’t want, but 20 minutes was fine with me. Turns out I was so relaxed, I was basically in a hypnotic state and labored with the monitors on. Never bothered me once.
In a deep, deep place all to myself, the nurses came back in at 9:30 and found I was already involuntarily pushing. I pushed for 40 minutes and all was going great. Although I don’t remember a ton after arriving at the hospital, I do remember thinking I’ve waited so long for this, this is what I want. Then, suddenly, the baby receded from the birth canal and there was a change in heart tones. My husband tells me the midwife was still in control and things were fine. Then, the doctor came in. He sat calm and cool away from the bed, just watching. After 20 minutes, the tone in the room changed. The doctor got up with a vacuum and my midwife told me I needed to get my baby out on this push. Give it everything you have. And I did. EVERYTHING. One contraction and a few pushes she was out!
She was whisked away not doing the best. No skin to skin for us. I planned on skin to skin, but at that point, I was too exhausted to care about skin to skin. I birthed the placenta pretty easily, but complained to the medical team of shortness of breath and shoulder pain. The doctor who assisted did a bed side ultrasound, but wanted a better reading, so ordered an ultrasound from radiology. Doctor came back to the room and said all looks normal – including my vitals. By that time it was 2:00am and I was exhausted. We went to bed.
I remember waking up at some point and googling ‘shoulder pain vbac’. No results. I wondered what I did. Did I push that hard? My entire body ached. I think at one point I googled ‘hit by a bus vbac’ (OK maybe not, but that’s what I felt like).
Over the course of the next few days, some odd things happened. My vitals remained awesome the entire time through arriving at the hospital through discharge. No unusual vitals. At all. My achy body slowly improved, but my stomach seemed to get bigger, and bigger. I seriously looked 12 months pregnant. I had no appetite and hadn’t had a bowel movement since delivery (at least I assumed I went at some point during pushing). Getting in and out of bed, I was babying my previous c-section scar, I probably even held it a little when I walked. It didn’t hurt, but, hindsight, it was probably intuition…the other odd thing was after a natural, unmedicated birth, 2 days later and my milk still hadn’t come in. With no clear reason to keep me, I was discharged with what appeared to be gas.
My little baby was still in the NICU, fighting infections. I had an overflow room so I could stay at the hospital with her. Discharged on a Saturday night, I visited my oldest and then headed back up to the hospital. That’s when I probably took a turn for the worst. The next morning I woke up and was not feeling well. Thankfully some nurses noticed my condition and recommended I go to the ER at the hospital. They got me a wheel chair and down I went.
Went in for a CAT scan to find out that my abdominal cavity was full of fluid and blood and I had developed an ileius. The most likely cause of the ileius was a uterine rupture. I went in for exploratory surgery having no idea what was happening to me or my uterus. Sure enough, my previous c-section scar completely busted open and the doctor team needed to open me up and stitch me back up.
It was actually amazing how much better I felt after being stitched up. I had an NG tube threaded through my nose down to my stomach. Although that was disgusting, it was relieving pressure from my bowels to get them moving again. I started pumping again immediately after surgery – and sure enough got milk instantly. The uterus is an amazing thing.
My daughter was discharged the next day, but since I had been readmitted, now she got to stay/room with me. I guess we just really didn’t want to leave. Finally 6 days later, we were both on our way home. Luckily, recovery from surgery was easy.
Reflecting on the whole experience, I am so incredibly grateful for several things: my husband for trusting me to give VBAC a try; my midwife who gave me the best shot of a natural birth; the doctor who helped deliver when we needed help; my doula who was helping me trouble shoot what was going on with me; the neonatal team who took my little sweety and got her breathing and healthy. But maybe most of all, it’s the two nurses who noticed something was wrong with me and getting me to the ER. I am not sure how long I would have waited to be seen, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been anytime soon without their encouragement.
Although for a little while, I questioned why me, I fully believe God has a plan and I trust in His plan. We all face challenges and adversity in life and it’s how we respond to those that make us move forward.