With so many women simply going in for a repeat c-section after having one with their first at the advice of their doctor, many questioned why I fought so hard for a VBAC. There are so many benefits of a vaginal birth for a child. They receive the gut flora from their mother that helps with their digestion, the mother is more easily able to breastfeed due to the natural hormones that balance at delivery (and breast milk has GLA and antibodies necessary for the baby’s immune system as well as digestive function), and that same hormone cocktail possibly protects the mother from Postpartum Depression. There are also many other benefits that can be found with a quick google search. There are also many risks of a c-section that people don’t seem to recognize often. More woman die from c-sections than car accidents and breast cancer, babies risk traumatic deliveries, and most importantly, their separation from their mother, which is incredibly traumatic emotionally for both mother and child. I also most likely will want more children, and more c-sections lead to problems with placenta previa or accretia, uterine rupture, and premature birth, as well as other risks. Most importantly for me, however, was the beginning of my motherhood with Kai. When he was born and taken away from me after 25 hours of labor and an “emergency cesarean”…. I cringe every time I hear “emergency” followed by or preceded by 24 hours of labor because it’s almost never an emergency but the doctor’s impatience along with hospital protocol regarding pitocin…. Kai was held by his father and spent time with my other family members and Jake’s before he ever saw me. I was one of the last people to hold him after family and nurses. My hair stands on end with anger every time I think of Kai’s entrance into the world. I was immobile due to the c-section, so I couldn’t be his mother for the first week of his life. I could hobble around, yes, but I was in too much pain to carry him and change his diapers since I couldn’t handle the pain medications and switched to a simple dose of Tylenol and anti-inflammatory. Not that we didn’t bond at all, because I certainly love my Kai more than words could ever express, and his love for his mother is obvious. A mother and son’s bond is like no other, regardless of any situation. Needless to say, however, I wanted a very different outcome my second time around, so I started doing my research six weeks after Kai’s birth, and promised myself I would get what our family needed.
As soon as I got a positive pregnancy test, I called the only truly VBAC supportive doctor in the state. She was/is amazing. She e-mailed me back and forth when I needed support or had any questions. She called me to update me or keep me informed on anything that popped up. Then the news came at my 23-week appointment that the original OB who cut Kai out of me gave me a single layer suture. Why? Maybe he was in a rush and wanted to get home to dinner and already spent 12 hours trying to convince me to go for a c-section that day. Maybe he didn’t care that I wanted a VBAC (although he knew) and just did what he did routinely. Or maybe he told me the truth when I called him to tell him how upset I was due to his decision when he said single layer sutures have less chances for infection and cause less trauma to the uterus than a double layer, as I had a very thin incision. Besides, 3 out of 5 studies show this to be the truth… Who knows. Regardless, the hospital at which my doctor practiced at would not allow a VBAC on a patient with a single layer suture cesarean, so my search continued.
I called several doctors and midwives all over the tri-state area. I scheduled an appointment with one doctor who didn’t even know doctors still performed single layer sutures these days, but agreed to have a chat with me. I drove an hour to see her, only to find that the receptionist scheduled my appointment for the wrong month. I saw that as a sign that this wasn’t going to be my doctor, as I do not have the patience to drive 2 hours to not be fit in. The second doctor I saw who was supposedly supportive of VBACs told me she has only performed 8 VBACs of an attempted 10. Of those 10, all women had a “proven pelvis” so she didn’t feel confident in my success seeing as I didn’t have a proven pelvis. I tried to tell her how healthy I was with my nutritional and athletic background, and she told me that health has nothing to do with the success of a VBAC. That was interesting, seeing as ACOG’s guidelines points to health as being the number one indicator in finding whether a patient is a good candidate for a VBAC. I then saw a midwife at that practice. She told me I am a participant in my labor. A participant? I’m pretty sure I’m the one birthing the baby and the doctors/midwives/nurses can maybe call them the participants. I saw another midwife who seemed to be tolerable, so I stuck with her. After all, I did need someone to attend this birth, as I didn’t know what the heck to do with labor and birth. I also called the only home-birthing midwife practice in the state, and the head midwife there wouldn’t see me. I’m not sure whether it was the single layer suture that turned her off or the fact that I wanted a VBAC.
Enter my midwife. I made a list of several midwives and doctors in the tri-state area, and called many on the list. I finally spoke to a woman who immediately sounded like my open window. I called her sobbing incessantly the day when I felt completely hopeless. This was just before settling for the second hospital midwife I saw. Just before calling her, I finally admitted to my mom what I was going through, because I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. No one wanted to attend my birth, and help me to ensure it to be a natural birth and do what was in the best interest of my child and me. She talked me through every scenario of homebirth outcomes, and every scenario for how I could have the birth I wanted. She told me that I still have options, and understood how ludicrous it was that I was having such trouble to simply give birth. Besides, VBACs ARE safer than repeat c-sections. She was busy for the foreseeable future, so she asked if she could come over that day. She drove all the way down and walked through my door and gave me the most understanding hug. I nearly started crying again just because I was so happy to find someone who was willing to help me. Not only did I find “someone,” I found someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience around the world, as well as a woman with a heart of gold. I basically found the modern day Mother Theresa in my eyes. Just as when I met Jake, it was like God gave me no excuse but to be with him because he knows I’m not the best at making decisions, he did the same in this case. God shut every door to every wrong opportunity for a care provider, and put the right one right on my doorstep, as he put me on Jake’s doorstep 6 years ago. What can I say, when God answers my prayers, he makes sure I see the answer and know it for what it is.
I kept my hospital midwife, as my insurance doesn’t cover my midwife, and that way my ultrasounds and what not would be taken care of. I wanted to have someone in my corner at the hospital in case I did need a non-urgent transport during labor. This actually added much unnecessary stress, in hindsight. The doctors and midwives at the practice held conferences about me and decided I needed to be talked into a repeat c-section, as my children will be less than 18 months apart. I told them I would most likely go late, and that wouldn’t be an issue. I was right. 18 months on the dot. Then at 40 weeks they wanted to induce me because I had oligohydramnios, or low fluid. I didn’t, as they simply weren’t measuring all pockets and didn’t give me full credit. My midwife checked me via palpation continuously, and could tell I had ample fluid. No one at the hospital practice ever touched my belly. They then tried to induce me at 41 weeks for the same thing, even after another doctor did an AFI and found that I had plenty of fluid. Then 42 weeks rolled around, and the hospital midwife turned to the most often used reason in the book, telling me “You’re baby is going to die.” Her reasoning? I was post-dates, my placenta is showing calcification, and my babies are less than 18 months apart. I reminded her that my babies would be at least 18 months apart at the point, and placenta calcification happens after 30 weeks anyway. When my placenta decides to stop working, I will go into labor. And 42 weeks is not post-dates, by the way. After 42 weeks, I would be post dates, but I continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate and his reaction to contractions and activity. He was doing great. And why was I so against induction? Because inductions tend to fail and end up in c-section since the babies aren’t ready to be born yet. If the baby is not ready to be born yet, he could have breathing issues, as well as brain damage due to artificial contractions that get him nowhere (which is why pitocin inductions lead to “emergency c-sections” due to fetal stress that would never have happened without the pitocin).
After a week of prodromal labor where I was having contractions 3-5 minutes apart every night, I finally went into labor, which lasted 67 hours at exactly 42 weeks + 5 days. I told Jake that after this, a marathon will be the easiest accomplishment of my life. Imagine having your groin and stomach electrocuted every 5-7 minutes for 67 hours. That’s the only way I can describe that to anyone who hasn’t been through that. They finally felt nearly unbearable at a certain point due to my exhaustion, and after my midwife checked me, I was 9 centimeters dilated. She said it with a smile, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. I asked her if that meant I was going to see my baby that day. She laughed, but come on; I didn’t know labor could last 3 days either. Who knew how much longer I could survive through that. I got in the tub and started pushing and out came my baby boy, all 7 lb 4 oz of him. My face was the first face he saw, and that has to have something to do with the way he is so beautifully attached to me like no one else. My first didn’t even know me from anyone else in the beginning, other than the fact that I had the milk. This little man calms down at the sound of my voice or the sight of my face. It’s an incredible feeling. He then latched and nursed 26 minutes after birth, without me even trying. I was simply holding him and he found the source on his own. I have barely put him down since, and hate to do it when I do, and have been up and moving around and out of the house since he was 2 days old. Recovery is so much easier this go-round, and my relationship with my baby is so guiltless compared to with my first. Big brother loves his new baby brother and life with a newborn couldn’t be easier. This time last year I was googling death by exhaustion. This time I can’t understand why I have energy or why this baby is treating me so well.
Faith in God, faith that he will make things happen, and trust in my body that I am capable of doing what every woman before me has done, and never-ending support from my husband got me through it all. Throughout those last few hours of labor I kept chanting to myself, “God give me strength, give me courage, and deliver this boy safely”. I am so thankful I stuck it out to the end and things happened the way they were meant to. It all paid off. As for my midwife and home birth, I never want to go a different route. I feel so much safer in the hands of someone who has expertise and experience and relies on their brain for instantaneous events than in the chair of a doctor who relies solely on technological devices. Doesn’t it make sense that someone who only ever uses a calculator can not act as quickly as someone who uses their own brains the majority of the time is much more quick to seeing solutions to problems as they arise? My midwife had me do several exercises months before the birth, to ensure good positioning of my baby. Like training for your first marathon, you wouldn’t ignore the advice of the very experienced coach! Positioning of the baby has so much to do with the outcome of labor. With my sweet baby boy in my arms, I’m thankful for every bit of the challenge I was given to overcome. And by the looks of my littlest man, he is happy for all we went through as well, for I have never seen a baby smile or laugh as much as he does. His first smile? Day 1. That is what it’s all about.