In order to fully explain my VBAC birth I need to quickly explain my first birth. Although I prepared for my first birth by taking Bradley classes and hiring a doula, I did not end up with the natural vaginal birth I wanted.
After a 40 hour labor, 4 hours of pushing, and multiple attempts at vacuum extraction all with no medication, I ended up having a cesarean section. It wasn’t until they cut me open that the doctor realized that the reason she wouldn’t come out was that she was posterior and in brow position, which basically means that she had her neck cranked and was looking out the birth canal. Unfortunately the vacuum they had tried was pulling on her forehead instead of the crown of her head, and she came out with a gigantic purple bruise and a large scab in the middle of her forehead.
I was devastated, and spent the next year and a half mourning the loss of the natural childbirth I so desperately desired. When I got pregnant for the second time, less than a year later, I knew I had a lot of emotional healing to do. I was positive that I wanted to try for a VBAC, but I was actually scared to let myself believe that I could do it. I was terrified of getting my hopes too high and having my natural childbirth “stolen” from me like I felt it was the first time.
For this birth, I was lucky enough to find a team of doctors and midwives that work closely together and are highly supportive of VBAC. I was able to go with the primary care of the midwives, but still meet each of the doctors in case I would need their help. I also used hypnobirthing to help me let go of some of my biggest fears and prepare for a more positive experience. I didn’t actually attend any hypnobirthing classes, but I found the CD’s and books extremely helpful.
At around 11 PM on March 2nd (I day past my due date), my practice contractions suddenly changed, and although they weren’t extremely intense, I could tell that I was in the early stages of labor. I made sure my husband went to bed right away, and I did the best I could to sleep that night. I was probably able to sleep about 5 hours throughout the night.
In the morning I squeezed in an appointment at the Chiropractor to help ensure that I was lined up and primed for birth. I went directly from the Chiropractor to the Midwives, who told me I was at 5 cm and 80% effaced. She told me to go home and do lots of walking. I didn’t feel like a lot of walking was really necessary, so instead I took a nap, went on a brief stroll around the block, and made dinner for my family.
After dinner my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. Both my mom and husband were concerned and thought I should head in to the hospital. I was completely unconcerned about it because I was still able to do the dishes after dinner with brief pauses for each contraction. To appease my mom and husband, I called the midwife to get her opinion. She suggested getting in the bath and said that a warm bath would either speed up or slow down my labor depending on what my body was ready for.
After my bath and listening to some hypnobirthing, my contractions were 5 minutes apart, but much more intense. I still didn’t feel like it was time to go in, so I sat and chatted with my mom in the living room while my husband put our toddler to bed. After, I had him slowly pack up the car and get ready to go. When I finally decided I was ready to go in, we got in the car and I commented to my husband that I felt a little nauseous and shaky. My husband looked a little scared and said he was worried I was in transition already, although I claimed it was just the cereal I ate right before we left and the cold night air.
On the way to the hospital I listened to the hypnobirthing “birthing day affirmations” CD. Apparently, we hit every light green along the way and my husband never had to slow the car down. Interestingly enough, the birthing day affirmations CD ends by saying, “I am ready, I am ready, ready, ready….” It was exactly at that moment that my husband pulled into the parking spot at the hospital and turned off the car. Woah. I was in perfect control and very relaxed for the whole car ride, and for each contraction I had as I walked into the hospital. They checked me when I arrived at 10:15 and I was at 7 cm and 100% effaced.
It wasn’t until they were giving me an IV for GBS antibiotics that I started to feel a little like I was starting to lose control. The nurse that was admitting me was acting like a teenager just woken up from a long nap. I found her so obnoxious that it was hard for me to stay in a deep state of relaxation during contractions. Each one seemed longer and more painful, and I was extremely eager for her to leave the room so that I could regain control.
She finally left me and my husband alone with a birthing ball to do our own thing. As soon as she left, I explained to my husband how I felt and told him I was worried since I “already” felt like I wanted an epidural. I was sure I had hours/days to go, just like last time. He reassured me, and also said that he didn’t think the nurse was that bad at all. However, when he looked at the monitor, he saw that my contractions really were getting more intense and lasting longer. HA! I had my proof. That nurse really DID make it impossible for me to control my contractions.
I got up to go to the bathroom, and my husband waited just outside the door for me. I wanted to go to the bathroom and then get back into my hypnobirthing groove. While sitting on the toilet, I suddenly realized that I was about to have a bowel movement. I told my husband this, and he joked that I needed to be careful not to push a baby out too. I pushed a couple of times, which coincidentally happened to be at the same time as a contraction. I noticed that I was shaking uncontrollably as I pushed, but I was relieved and reassured when I actually DID have a bowel movement.
Part of me wondered just a little bit if this was IT. I was feeling the urge to push, but surely it was just because I was going to the bathroom, right? I couldn’t quite find the words to explain to my husband what I was thinking, but I hoped he was able to read my mind. Just to be sure that nothing else had started to come out as I had been pushing, I reached down to check. As my right hand was right below me, there was a sudden, and extremely loud popping sound, and a HUGE gush of water. My socks and my slippers were soaked. I immediately shouted out to my husband “water broke, need to push!” He must have been quick to push the button because it seemed like it was only two seconds later that my midwife was at my knees.
I definitely have a bit of a germ phobia when it comes to certain things, and I was SO embarrassed to have someone at my knees just after having a bowel movement. As she tried to ask me questions about what I was feeling, all I could do was apologize to her because I hadn’t even wiped or flushed yet! Once she realized how important that was to me, she got me some soapy wipes that I could clean up with quickly.
The next contraction happened before I could finish cleaning up all the way, and I told her I needed to push. She calmly told me not to push, or I would end up with a baby in the toilet. After that contraction ended, she and a nurse helped me off the toilet, but I quickly had to brace myself for yet another contraction as soon as I stood up. I put my hand on the frame of the door to support myself. As the nurse and midwife tried to coax me towards the bed in a calm yet frantically urgent way, all I could focus on was finding someone to clean my hand, and also the part of the door frame that I had touched. The thought of clear amniotic fluid on a doorframe that doesn’t get regularly cleaned really bothered me.
And then I felt HOT. Really, really hot. And frustrated. Why didn’t anyone understand how important it was for me to have my hair clip to get the hair out of my face? How come my husband couldn’t find it? The obnoxious nurse told me to forget about the hair clip because I was having a baby. What did she know? I wasn’t going to get on the bed like she demanded, because first I needed my hair clip. My midwife was somehow able to respectfully rip my hospital gown off of me, which immediately cooled me down.
Luckily, she was able to coax me into a good position before the next contraction, because it was really time to push. I knew I was pushing, but I also knew I had a long time to go, so I was still thinking about where my hair clip might be, and why my husband couldn’t find it. My husband was talking about how he could see our baby’s head, but I was still thinking about my hair clip. The next pushing contraction seemed to happen right on top of the first one, and I remember saying, “oh THAT’S the burn that people talk about!” The nurse responded with, “Okay, I’m just going to suck her nose out.” I didn’t really get what she was saying until I heard crying.
THAT’S when I realized what was happening. THAT’s when I realized it was a dream. Or, surely I was just “visualizing” my birth using a hypnobirthing CD. I told my husband that it wasn’t fair, that it seemed too real, that it was a dream, right? With the next push my husband reached down and caught our baby. He handed her to me immediately, and I felt a surge of love come over me. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” I repeated to this beautiful baby girl over and over. Then I looked up and said, “What just happened?”
I walked into the hospital at 10:15. The nurse left us alone around 11:00. I had a baby in my arms at 11:24. But believe me, it felt a lot faster than that!
Looking back on it now, it’s clear that I was in denial during all of the more active parts of labor. My first birth took so painfully long, that it was hard for me to imagine it any other way, even though it was obviously what I wanted.
I see now that when I was in the car and felt nauseous and chilly, it wasn’t just the cereal and the cold night air. I understand that the obnoxious nurse wasn’t making me lose control of my ability to stay on top of my contractions, but rather that they actually were getting longer and harder. And, she probably wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as I thought. The pushing feeling I had on the toilet really was IT, and it was a coincidence that I happened to have a bowel movement at the same time. Not the other way around. And, even though I was anticipating at least 4 hours of pushing that would necessitate me taking care of hair issues, I am SO grateful that that’s not what I ended up with. However, now that I know the power of my push, I’m going to try and slow it down next time so that I don’t tear. Other than that one tear though, it really was a perfect birth.
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation
Birth is inspiring, amazing, and empowering. This website shares a collection of real natural birth experiences from you, the readers. Births the way nature intended. No pitocin. No epidural. Just the beauty (and intensity!) of the human body at work. Whether you've had one natural birth, five natural births, or are considering natural birth in the future, our hope is you will find courage and joy in these stories. Enjoy.
The Doula Book: How A Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have A Shorter, Easier, And Healthier Birth
Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth