I think everyone I have ever encountered in real life or cyber world knows how horribly disappointing my labor/delivery was with Lydia. I have been reminded many times over that it’s not about the journey — it’s about the end result. The end result is that I had a beautiful, healthy, happy baby girl and I was pretty much back to my old self in less than a week. However, if the end result was all that life was about things would be a lot different.
“Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” – Rafiki, The Lion King
I chose the latter.
Everyone knows about my desire to have a VBAC. I chose a supportive midwife who has had 2 VBACs and is very well-known within my community. At around 5:30 am on Friday, September 16th, I started feeling some contractions that finally felt like the “real” thing. It’s hard to remember from one birth to the next the difference between the real contractions and false contractions, but once they come on, you know. That entire day I felt contractions – anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes apart. I tried to go to bed that evening, but woke up around 1 am with what felt like more serious, close-together contractions. I called my midwife, packed up the car, and went to the hospital. I probably didn’t need to go that early, but they seemed so much more powerful than the earlier contractions, I figured better safe than sorry.
As soon as I arrived, I got my meds for the Group B Strep, which I responded well to. My midwife arrived around 3 am and told me I was only 3 cm dilated. I was definitely hoping for more than that. She wanted to break my water, but I was not ready for that. That was step 1 in my unsuccessful labor/delivery last time, so I got really anxious just thinking about it. My midwife left me to labor on my own for the next 5 hours. The contractions got more regular, about 4 – 5 minutes apart. She went to check me again, and after all that, I was still only dilated 3 cm. Now, here’s where the tough love needed to come in. Because I labored for over 24 hours at this point and progressed very minimally, I had to do something or I was really risking a c-section. Apparently I have some sort of uterine dysfunction. My babies are very high and just don’t come down without some sort of intervention. All the contractions were not good for my c-section incision, so I had to allow her to break my water. I was petrified, but I had to extend my faith a bit to trust that this was what was best and would allow me to deliver vaginally.
Instantly, the contractions came on MUCH harder and MUCH faster. Remember now, I haven’t slept in over 24 hours and had been contracted for almost 30 hours, so I started to just feel so weak and so tired. I asked for some pain meds, and I was given something that made me sleepy, but at least then I could kinda relax between contractions. I remember that I would stop breathing because I would get so relaxed, and Richard would have to remind me to breathe. But that only lasted about an hour before it wore off. Because of my Group B Strep, it was not safe for my midwife to examine me too often, so I had no idea at this point if I had progressed at all. Out of fear that I’d be too tired and weak to push, I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and was somewhat rude. He asked me why the heck I’d want to have a VBAC over just scheduling another c-section. When I told him that it was safer for me and baby, he laughed at me. I was NOT about to have this debate at that time. I had to sit exceptionally still while contracting (and I am not a quite/calm laborer – I scream, punch things, bite things, kick, squeeze, etc.). Apparently the epidural went in perfectly the first time. Only one problem…same problem as last time…you’re supposed to go numb. Well, again, I didn’t go numb. I felt my legs, I felt all the contractions, I felt the stupid catheter go in, etc. Little did I know that I was already 8 cm dilated (which I learned after getting the epidural) or I wouldn’t have even asked for it! (Yes, I know, shoulda, coulda, woulda).
At any rate, I quickly moved along to 10 cm and I was ready to start pushing. I pushed for just about an hour, making my total labor/delivery 32 hours. As with Lydia, everyone thought I’d have an average size baby (maybe 7 1/2 lbs). Well, after all my pushing (which, wow, is that a challenge – it required more strength and endurance than I ever thought I had), I delivered a very healthy and big 8 lb 15 oz baby! No one would have guessed it – I only gained 25 lbs, but as everyone told me, I was all belly.
This experience helped me to reconnect with what I was experiencing when I gave in to having a c-section last time. Perhaps I even forgave myself for not trying harder. But this time, each time I started to doubt myself, thinking I should just give up because I apparently just can’t deliver vaginally, my midwife and Richard gave me the courage to keep going. They told me they could see the head. My midwife grabbed the tray with instruments to signal he was coming, she put on a special gown, she called in another nurse, etc. All of these were signs to me that I was doing a good job. My midwife stretched and massaged and did everything she could to help me have the birth I wanted for my family. For that, I am eternally grateful. I can only hope that my career allows me to have a similar impact on the lives of others. It’s really quite amazing! Having a standard hospital birth may not be ideal or perfect. I still had to deal with all the postpartum hospital BS, but the guidance and support I received while laboring and delivering was unbelievable.