Please take a few minutes to read this incredible VBAC story and be encouraged! I met the sweet mama of this beautiful baby girl at a local ICAN meeting where she was the leader. I am sooo thrilled for her for getting the desires of her heart with this birth!
I'll try to keep it as ungraphic as possible ;).
So most people who know me, know that I started preparing for a VBAC from the time Davy was about five weeks old. Most people know that I had what I consider to have been (at the time it was performed) an unnecessary c-section after 15 hours of unmedicated labor and making it almost all the way. Most people also know what a nightmare of a recovery I had- second surgery, Wound VAC, all that fun stuff. Since then I have become a serious birth advocate, doula, and childbirth educator. I wanted the birth of my next child to be different. I wanted a VBAC, but at the very least I wanted to feel confident that even if I had another cesarean that it was necessary and not due to any naivete on my part. I hired a doctor known to be supportive of VBAC and natural birth at a hospital also known to be supportive of those practices. In fact, I had the privilege of attending five or six births with my doctor and hospital before my own labor began! With a supportive caregiver on our side, Robby and I hired a doula (and ended up getting two!), completing my VBAC team.
My "guess date" for Mirabelle was May 16th. I went into labor naturally with Davy at 40 weeks and 1 day, so as I easily sailed past that mark with Mirabelle I settled in for another week or more of being pregnant. On Tuesday, May 17th I had about three hours of crampy contractions from 2-5 am. However, when I woke up at 7:30 I realized it was not "The Day." The rest of the week I stayed active with Davy- we visited the zoo, the McWane Center, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and a park or two. On Saturday May 21, my mother came up from Mobile in order to stay with Davy if labor started in the middle of the night. On Sunday May 22, Robby and I sang in choir at St. Paul's and in the afternoon we took a family trip to BBG. As we walked around, I noticed that I was having several contractions that felt a little tigheter than the others I'd been feeling, but weren't noticeably regular or long or particularly uncomfortable. I took one dose of Labor Enhancer at suppertime. As I was putting Davy to bed at 8pm I noticed that I was indeed having regular contractions that were accompanied by the same crampy feeling I'd experienced earlier in the week. Thinking these were more practice contractions, I suggested that we get in bed to rest around 11pm- either we would need the sleep because things were about to get started or I would wake up again in the morning the contractions having subsided. As I was doing my normal nightly routine, I felt a pop in my pelvis. "OH MY GOD!" I thought "Did my uterus just rupture?!" Then I noticed the clear fluid. My water had broken! TOTALLY unexpected! My water was artificially broken at 9+ cm with Davy. I called Robby into the bathroom to let him know what happened and then called our doula. I had two contractions that were difficult to speak through while on the phone with her- whoa. It seemed like I wouldn't have to wait for things to get started. I got in the shower and agreed that I would call the doula when I got out to let her know whether I was ready for her to head over. While in the shower I started having contractions that simply felt better for me to quietly vocalize through. They were pretty strong, and already getting closer together. At 11:20 I got out of the shower and told Robby to call the doula to tell her that we should just meet at the hospital. I'd already decided I did not want a 30 minute drive when the contractions were much more intense and closer together than this. We loaded the car and headed for Shelby Baptist in Alabaster. I rode in the very back of the car draped over a birth ball and I'm pretty sure I swore every time we hit a bump in the road (please don't hold it against me!).
We arrived at Shelby around 12pm, I think. One of our doulas met us at the elevators and applied counterpressure to my back as we rode to the 2nd floor. We went to the nurses station and I was thrilled that since we hadn't been able to get in touch with Dr. Head that it was Dr. Simmons who was on-call (Dr. Simmons actually gave me a hug after a birth for which I was doula). I had at least two strong contractions right there at the desk and they checked us right into a room without going through triage first. The nurse checked me and I was 4.5cm, 90% effaced, and -2 station. Not what I was hoping for with the contractions being as powerful and close together as I had been experiencing, but more than what I had been at my last dr's appt. Ok, time to settle in. Our other doula arrived. I labored on the birth ball for some time and wanted lots of counterpressure and heat on my lower back. Things get a bit fuzzy for me from here. I remember being checked at 6.5cm, 90%effaced, and -1 station, but I can't remember if that was before or after I started feeling some pressure to push. We got in the shower. The urge was stronger. I wanted to be checked again and was 7.5 cm and still -1 station. This is where I started to lose it a little bit. With Davy I never had the opportunity to labor him past -1 station. I started to doubt my body and the thought that perhaps the baby was presenting some way or I had some sort of pelvic anomaly that made it difficult to progress past -1 station. The contractions were intense in both the front and back and ever longer and closer together. I started asking for medication, but my doulas and Robby kept pushing me. Next check, I was 8.5cm and 0 station- this did SO much for my state of mind! Whether anyone else present there could tell or not, haha. The urge to push was incredibly strong. Finally, I couldn't keep my body from pushing. Our doula called a nurse and I was complete! I used a squat bar a bit, but what felt most right for me was getting on my knees and supporting my upper body on Robby's legs. Basically a modified hands and knees. I have no clue how long I pushed, but started to feel some burning. Everyone was incredibly supportive- my husband (who I later found out was worried I might break his legs!), my doulas (my fellow BirthWell in Birmingham partners- Dalia Abrams and Dana Gale!) who continued to provide verbal reassurance and physical support, the nurses who pretty much just stood back and let me do what I needed to do (not that I would or COULD have done anything different had they asked me to), and Dr. Simmons (who didn't say word one to me about catching a baby in a less than orthodox hospital birth pushing position). Knowing that no matter how uncomfortable it would be helpful to push Mirabelle's head out as slowly as possible, I tried to do just that. Allowing myself several contractions to try to breathe her head out gently and avoid tearing. Turns out that those efforts didn't matter too much- she had a nuchal hand! At 4:51 am Mirabelle made her miraculous appearance. The labor was quick and intense! But honestly it didn't even seem as long as the nearly six hours it was. So much of it is a blur!
We admired our beautiful baby [8lb 8oz, 19 inch, 13.25 " head circumference] in peace for quite some time as the hospital team allowed ample time for the cord to stop pulsating and for the placenta to detach on its own. Eventually, Dr. Simmons and the nurses came back. Robby cut the umbilical cord and the placenta came out easily. However, it was determined that I had endured a 3rd degree tear because of that little hand/arm/elbow. And although I may be a bit sore from all that, it is NOTHING like the pain I experienced after my cesarean. In fact, I don't think I was getting around as well as I am now even five weeks out from Davy's birth. In fact, today I WALKED out of the hospital and easily got into our car. I buckled my seatbelt without flinching.
We did still have some postpartum complications- Mirabelle went to the NICU (probably would have been just fine without going, to be honest, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet); I ended up with another blood transfusion because my hematocrit was so low. But the experience we had and the support we received were amazing and so very different from our previous experience. I'm sure I'm going to be processing the past week for quite some time!