by Jen, Canada
When I look back on my son's birth, I am amazed by the way the birth carried me, where it took me and how it healed me.
“I just want my contractions to begin!” I whined into my husband's shoulder. It was 8pm on Thursday and I was 40 weeks plus 5 days and I had grown impatient. Within half an hour my contractions started! I was so excited! Finally!
I managed well through the contractions which were about 10 minutes apart and sent my husband to bed to rest so he'd be ready when we had to go to the hospital (which I knew would be soon). By 2am they were 5-6 minutes apart and I wanted to call our doula; she said to have a bath, which was great because I was freezing! I did and the contractions spaced out and I got a little rest.
I awoke around 4am totally confused, wait, wasn't I having a baby? Why had the contraction petered out? Friday morning arrived and we were still at home, contractions remained 10 minutes apart and I had to concentrate through each one. My husband called my mom who came and got our other 2 children. He stayed home from work and we waited.
I broke down, why wasn't this working? This felt so much like my first labour, which had ended in a c-section. I cried to my husband, why had I even bothered to try this VBAC? I felt like such a fool. Clearly my body was a dud and it had no idea how to have a baby. He was so encouraging, no this wasn't like the first, with the first I had gone to the hospital (way too soon) and was being subjected to many birth interventions by this point. We were still home and in control.
My doula was also an invaluable resource at this point, she reassured me that sometimes labour has a slow start. I lay in bed and tried to rest which was pretty much impossible with the contractions coming every 10 minutes. The sky was the most beautiful blue I have ever seen and the snow so white. A beautiful day to have a baby… why wasn't my body cooperating? I remained wrapped in a quilt the rest of the day, I couldn't seem to get warm.
By evening our doula suggested we go on a date to take our minds of the situation. Seriously! This sounded crazy to me, I didn't want to go out, or get in a vehicle or be seen by anyone. But we went. To the mall, 35 minutes in the opposite direction of the hospital, which is 1 hour away from our house. I tried to get some food down, I had no appetite and then we walked the mall. Stopping every 10 minutes so I could breathe through the contractions. Then another blast of Alberta winter and an excruciating car ride home.
Friday night was spent much like the previous night, contractions picked up during the night and tapered off to 10 minutes apart by morning. My loving husband provided counter pressure to my back most of the night.
Saturday morning rose cold, and overcast, kind of gloomy, I broke down again. I couldn't do this much longer, we needed a plan. Our doula suggested coming into the city for a chiropractic adjustment and then going to the hospital to be checked. I felt this was our best plan even though it felt like I was giving up.
I checked my online VBAC support group, I shared what was happening and how I felt my VBAC dreams slipping away. I was astounded by the number of women who responded with similar stories of prodnormal labour that went on to have successful VBACs. I tried to stay positive.
I phoned my mom to fill her in… yes it's been 24 hours since you took the kids and we're still at home. At my adjustment, Dr. J. told me to avoid lying on my back. When I laid on my back, baby's spine would roll off to the left, if I had to lay down, lay on my right side she said. We decided to stop for lunch, I forced down some food and we headed to the hospital. When we arrived outside maternity I wanted to run away, I knew what happened when you went in there… c-sections!
We stepped through the doors and it was silent, warm and dimly lit. The hallway was abandoned. I looked at my husband, “are they closed?” Just then a nurse came out and directed us to triage. We were the only ones there, the nurse said they were having an unusually slow day. I laid on my right side for the non-stress test. I felt safe, I had not expected to feel this way. The nurse brought me heated blankets, I was warm for the first time in 40 hours. My husband continued to provide counter pressure during the monitoring.
Somewhere during this time my body flicked a switch, active labour! I was checked and I was 5cm! I was over the moon! This was as far as I had ever managed to get with my first labour. I was admitted and moved to a labour and delivery room. Our doula joined us shortly thereafter. The doctor that was working that weekend came to our room (not my doctor) He wasn't impressed that I wanted to labour, given my history of big babies, 2 previous c-sections and no late term ultra sound on file. He expressed his frustration with my situation to the nurse and then turned to us. “IF I had steady progression and the baby descends, I would be “allowed” to labour, but if you don't follow the rules, you know where we'll be headed(O.R.).” And he left.
My doula got me up and moving, we walked and rocked, I remained on the monitor the whole time with a few short breaks to use the bathroom. The doctor was back in a couple of hours to check our progress, not much change however baby was doing great the nurse reminded him. He offered to break my water, I agreed and said a prayer that the water would be clear and that my baby would be able to take the contractions. It was clear and baby continued to do great.
I laboured on the toilet for awhile this was the most comfortable for me. I visualized the baby's head coming down and my body opening. The nurse started asking questions, how had my last c-sections gone, had I reacted to the spinal, was I wearing nail polish. I knew these questions, they weren't labour questions, they were the questions you got asked before surgery. She apologized but she was told she had to. A little while later the anesthesiologist came in with more surgery questions. The nurse and my doula shoed him away, politely letting him know that his services won't be needed today.
The doctor checked me a little while later, 7cm. He let me know that the O.R. was holding a place for me… just in case. Thanks, thanks a lot. I was protected by a bubble because all this negativity never got in to me. It never fazed me that the hounds were at my door, I was on the clock and people were betting against me, against birth. This wasn't something I was doing, it was but by the grace of God that I continued undaunted.
Progress seemed to stall here, baby's head still hadn't come down and my progression stayed at 7cm. The nurse was instructed to not allow me any more water. (nothing by mouth before surgery, you know.) This was unbearable to me, active labour without water! Seriously! I told my husband to bring me water, the nurse had to listen to the doctor but he didn't. My doula suggested the drug fentanyl, she said it would help me relax and let my baby come down. I agreed, after I was given the drug I laboured a while more on the toilet.
Suddenly I was pushing, I didn't mean to and I was unable to tell my doula until after the contraction that I was pushing. Both my doula and the nurse told me to wait, that I wasn't complete. I believe the pushing my body was doing was bringing my baby down onto my cervix. After a few more contractions with involuntary pushing, the nurse wanted to check me. I was checked and was pronounced ready to push! Let me just say, I don't believe fentanyl is a magic drug, I believe my 100% trust in my doula who said, this will work, made it work.
Now, back to pushing, I was back on the monitors and therefore couldn't be on the toilet. The urge to push was gone, the nurse suggested the birthing stool. One contraction on the birthing stool and the urge was back. A couple contractions later and we moved to the bed. I was having a hard time letting go, I was scared. The nurse suggested the semi-reclined position for pushing, the thought of sitting was more than I could bear, I HAD to be upright. They adjusted the bed so I was on my knees with my elbows resting on the back of the bed which was straight up. This was great because my husband could stand beside the bed, I could see his face and hold his hand. A few more contractions and I figured it out! It was like a light went on, I got it! I could feel my body's powerful pushes moving my baby down. I asked if I was making progress, both my doula and the nurse reminded me that I was a first time pusher and these things usually take awhile. Uh, I could have sworn I felt my baby moving down.
Another push and the monitor lost my baby's heart rate. The nurse got worried and said we needed to do an internal monitor. In her defense the only reason I had been “allowed” to continue laboring was my baby's amazing steady heart tones. In my baby's defense he had moved into the birth canal and was too low for the monitors to pick him up. This is the part of my labour I wish I could rewrite. I hate that he had to have the little screw put in his head and that he had a scab there for the next 2 weeks. But… this is what happened. He didn't have it in for long, another push after it was in and he was crowning.
Suddenly the lights were on, the room filled with people, the doctor was hurrying to gown up and everyone was saying don't push. I saw in that moment that I was doing it, I was about to have a baby, I waited for 4 ½ long years for this. I expected the moment to be more amazing, me with my hands held high, tears, a huge smile on my face. Nothing, all I could think about was getting the baby out. Another push and he was out, all 9 pounds 5 ounces of him, 8:14pm 48 hours since that first contraction. He was in my arms, he was so soft, so warm, so wet and smelled so amazing. These were all things I had never experienced, things that I never knew I wanted until I didn't get them with the first two. I couldn't believe it had happened, I was in shock.
My placenta wasn't born for over an hour and the doctor was talking about a D&C, how ironic I thought. I fought this hard to have a non-surgical birth, just to need a surgery in the end. The doctor told me to push as hard as I could and we would get the placenta out, “Just one more miracle Lord?” and I pushed as hard as I could. Out it came, intact. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
When I look back on those days of labour I see it as a time of continuous, little answers to prayer. Answers that, together were the miracle of a healthy son and a healing birth. I am so thankful to my Lord and Savior who holds my life in His hands. Who has a plan for my life and brought me through the pain of my first births to the joy of this birth. Thankful to my husband who supported my pursuit of the birth I wanted and needed, even though he didn't fully understand it. My wonderful and supportive doula, Shannon. And lastly to my son whose steady heart beat instilled confidence in me to continue with labour. “We are grateful to all the little babies who, in spite of doubting obstetricians, anxious staffs, narrow passageways, and many other obstacles, continued to remember the blueprints and followed them to be born.