My first birth experience was pretty traumatic. I had gone into the experience with some knowledge and a lot of trust in my doctor. I ended up with a failed induction, an epidural, a c-section in which my uterine artery was severed, a life-threatening blood loss, the loss of an ovary, and a long, rough recovery full of pain and breastfeeding trouble.
My sadness, guilt, anger, and sheer, bone-deep disappointment about my first birth proved to be something positive for me. I realized that any woman who is not trained in natural birth could wind up having the experience that I had. It angered and motivated me. I became a doula. I was determined to help other families avoid the same feelings about their birth.
So, when I was fortunate enough to become pregnant again, I was a little defensive about how I was going to birth. I was going to go into labor on my own. I was going to avoid pain medication. I was going to push this baby out, dammit.
I switched providers, going from OB to midwife care. I hired a fantastic doula. I read everything about VBACs. I wanted that VBAC more than I think I've ever wanted anything, other than a healthy baby.
During a consult with an OB at 36 weeks, he informed me that I needed to have a c-section on the books, and he wouldn't want me to wait longer than 41 weeks. My heart hurt. But I squared my shoulders and said that I wasn't comfortable with that, and that it would be discouraging to have something on the books. He said that it was likely that I'd go into labor on my own, and that I didn't have to do anything.
I didn't go into labor by 41 weeks. I tried everything. EVERYTHING. Nothing worked. I got more pressure to schedule my c-section. My midwives hugged me, checked me, reassured me. But they didn't feel like waiting past 42 weeks was in my baby's best interest. Finally, 9 days past my due date, exhausted, anxious, and feeling discouraged I sat down and told my baby, "No one is going to decide when your birthday will be except you. I'm your mom and it's my job to let you do this."
On my tenth day past my due date, I woke up at 3 AM with different contractions. I had regular, strong contractions every 10 minutes all that day, then went to bed at 10PM. I woke up at 1 AM with very strong contractions. I labored in bed without waking my husband until 4:30AM, then called my parents, who were coming to watch my toddler, and my midwife to tell her I would be coming in that morning.
We arrived at the hospital at 7:30AM at 4 cm. The nurse and midwife were both a little skittish around me and informed me that they had seen some problems with VBACs lately, and that they'd probably be "a little jumpy." Neither of them were warm or supportive.
When they left the room, I began to cry and told my husband, "I'm having another c-section. I can just feel it." But then, minutes later, my amazing doula arrived. She was like a breath of fresh air. When the nurse began to tether me to the monitor and the IV, Emily spoke up with me to say we needed to get me walking. Her cool hands and cool head helped me through the contractions in the beginning, and her support never let up, even when I labored intensely for 14 hours and got stuck at 8 cm. The pain was bearable, but I had the overwhelming urge to push and couldn't stop bearing down. I was having contractions that lasted well over 2 minutes and were less than a minute apart. The midwife suggested I have an epidural to help me relax. I did, but the level was left low so I could still feel a lot of pressure.
Eventually, I learned my baby was OP, and that his heart rate wasn't picking up as well as they'd like after contractions. The doctors and midwife were concerned that I wouldn't be able to push him out quickly enough. A very gentle doctor discussed using a vacuum or foreceps because he was worried about my baby's heart rate. He said that he was concerned enough about the baby to suggest another c-section but thought we could try to avoid it.
In the end, it was determined that my pushing was strong enough to try the vacuum. He said I might still push for up to 20 minutes, but I only needed one contraction and one push. He was born, safe and healthy, all 9 lbs 4 oz, and put right on my chest. He nursed immediately and has pretty much never stopped!
I was so glad that I was assertive about my birth, and so fortunate to have a lot of support during my birth. I hope to be that for many women in the future!