E’s VBAC Birth Story

E’s VBAC Birth Story

Mama: Jessica T.

Stats: 10 lbs, 15 oz, 22″

Type of Birth: Vaginal, VBAC

Birth Location: Hospital

Primary Care: Obstetrician

All babies are wonderful blessings. My babies tend to also be BIG wonderful blessings. My first son, C., was born in 2009 by C-section after 36 hours in labor because even with Pitocin, I wasn’t progressing. Turns out he was really big, at 11 lbs 3 oz, 24″ long, and a he had a 40cm head. So when I got pregnant with baby number two, I was apprehensive about having another large baby. I’ve heard all the stories about second babies being bigger than first babies, and that certainly holds true in my family, as well as the fact that big babies run in my family (although C. was the largest anyone could remember). I was my mother’s smallest baby at 8.5 lbs, my sister and brother came in at 10 lbs 13 oz, and around 9 lbs respectively, and I am the oldest.

I started preparing for VBAC before we even got pregnant. My boys are spaced 4.5 years apart, not by choice, but by natural spacing due to full term breastfeeding, PCOS, and probably my weight. I found great information on VBACFacts, BirthWithoutFear, by reading “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer, and through a VBAC Facts Facebook group. During pregnancy, I tried to limit my intake of sugars, tried to eat healthfully, and I tried to move as much as possible, while having a toddler at home and working a full time job. This movement was quickly curtailed though, because at 16 weeks, I started getting ferocious round ligament pain that we later determined was actually Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) – an over-loosening and separating of the front joint in the pubic bone.

I knew that just getting a diagnosis of ‘big baby’ would be enough to incline my care providers towards thinking that a VBAC was not possible. So after the 20 week Nucal Fold/Anatomy scan showed we were in the normal range, and that baby looked healthy, I declined any further scans that might “confirm” (and get me a diagnosis) of big baby or macrosomia – especially as these “growth scans” are notoriously inaccurate (off by up to 20%) for size estimation later in pregnancy. I selected an OB with whom I was comfortable, and with whom I could be bluntly honest. I also trusted he was as interested as I was in VBAC and would be bluntly honest with me. He agreed to be on-call for my birth, even if it was not his on-call day (part of a large practice), mostly because he likes holding the record at that hospital for unmedicated births and VBACs. That worked for me!

Throughout pregnancy I measured WAY ahead by fundal height, but I have a LOT of “extra padding”, and my OB was happy to allow me to skip the extra ultrasounds, and to go by my sense of how large the baby was along with his fundal measurements and guestimates. I felt in my heart of hearts, that this baby was smaller than his brother. I felt large movement much later into this pregnancy – C had run out of room to move much by about week 32, so had resorted to small jabs and wiggles instead of flipping and turning and jumping and jabbing like this baby. I carefully managed my diet by protein loading and avoiding carbs and all processed sugar for 3-5 days prior to the glucose tests. Yes, because I’m overweight they had me do one glucose test early, as well as at the standard 28-30 weeks. I wanted to give my body the best chance to pass the glucose tests, and didn’t want any red flags in my file for either failing or for refusing them (I don’t know whether this made any difference, but I aced both tests). I also did acupuncture throughout this pregnancy (and leading up to it). This was wonderful for pain relief for the SPD.

At 39w (according to the initial ultrasound measurement) or 39w5d (according to ovulation), at 1:30 am, my water broke. In bed. On my husband’s birthday.

I went back to bed with towels, thank goodness for waterproof mattress pads! Contractions started almost immediately, about 8 minutes apart. They gradually progressed to about 4 minutes apart at 6am, when I woke my husband again to call out of work and get C ready for school. At first I thought I would have my husband drive my son to school and then come back to get me to go to the hospital, but by 6:30 it was clear that we needed to activate our alternate care/rides plan, so my brother picked C up at around 7:30 – 8 am.

Once C was off to school, we left for the hospital… during rush hour (we live in Los Angeles). My contractions slowed down on our way (hello stress!), so we stopped at a bakery for breakfast, went for a walk and met my mom at the hospital at about 10:15. I was immediately admitted as the contractions were back to 4 minutes apart, serious in intensity, and I was still gushing clear fluid.

My favorite moment from admissions was as we were walking into triage and the nurse asked, “And what are you here for today?” All I could answer was, “to have a baby?!?!?!” I really wanted to answer that I was there for the food, but apparently she didn’t notice the frequent pauses, swaying, and shutting my eyes on the way to the triage room.

When we got to our delivery room, I was checked and at 6cm, -2 station, 100% effaced. Further than I ever got with my prior labor!!! Contractions remained at about 4 minutes apart and irregular all day, making no real progress, despite walking, squats, being on all fours, birth ball, shower, standing-supported-semi-squats, etc. I was SPENT at about 9:00pm, and apparently dehydrated from only occasionally sipping water, and having no appetite or real thirst all day.

Shift had just changed at 8:00pm, and we got a wonderful natural-birth-VBAC-supportive nurse, which really made a difference. She took the time to understand what we wanted, read our birth plan, and instantly assessed that I was dehydrated and got me on a bag of fluids. Within minutes, I was more coherent, but still EXHAUSTED, so we discussed pain med options, and decided on an epidural, which was placed shortly before 10:00pm.

I took about an hour nap, was checked and was at 8cm, so my OB broke the fore bag which was still intact despite gushing amniotic fluid all day. The nurse helped me into some assisted positions (on my side with one leg in stirrups, semi inclined: this nurse was great!) to get baby to come down while I rested some more.

At midnight I was complete at 10cm! My OB suggested laboring down another hour then we would see about pushing. At 1:00am the nurse came in and got us situated to see if I could push with the epidural or if we would need to turn it down so I could feel. Turned out I could push just fine! When the OB returned he offered me the option to let the epidural expire or to get a top-up so I would be sure to be covered through the afterbirth. I elected for the top-up. I didn’t want to get “cold feet” from the pain at the last minute or to start having pains with the afterbirth just as I was meeting and trying to bond with my child.

At 1:32am, after only 25 mins pushing, E was born via VBAC. He was 10 lb, 15 oz, 22 inches long and had a 40cm head!

So turns out we were both right. He was smallER than my first, but he was still a big baby!

He started nursing about 30 minutes after delivery, after checking out all the faces present. We had immediate skin to skin, he was only removed in order to be weighed. I did sustain a 2nd degree tear, but given that he is almost the same size (and has the same size head) as my 1st son who “had” to be delivered by c-section for failure to progress, I think we did remarkably well, and I felt so great in comparison.

Healing and recuperating was SO much easier after the VBAC compared to the c-section, even with a 4.5 year old to chase around and a big heavy baby to carry. I still have a tingly side and a numb side to my cesarean scar 5.5 years later and it took me almost a year before I could walk long distances or carry my oldest son for hours comfortably after the c-section. After C’s delivery I couldn’t get myself out of bed for weeks to go to him when he needed me, or stand up while holding him (I had to put him down, get up, then pick him up).

But after the VBAC delivery, I was comfortable enough to be out at a 5 year old’s birthday in the park just eight days after delivery (and no, I didn’t let all the kids touch the baby), and I could get up and get around the house without having to put the baby down or have assistance getting out of bed. It was SO SO SO much easier.

Writing this a year+ after his birth, I am still so glad that I educated myself about, and carried through with making sure I could have a trial of labor after cesarean, and that it ended in a VBAC. Birth is an amazing experience no matter how you do it, but pushing the baby out yourself sure is instantly empowering!

Guest Mama Jessica T. is a born and raised southern California native. Mama to two boys, she is involved with her local Waldorf School where her oldest son attends kindergarten and she works full-time outside the home. She claims to be a moderate “natural” or “attachment” parent, but thinks these are really just labels and doesn’t really define the way she has come to understand parenting, but they do inform and influence her parenting style.

2 Responses to E’s VBAC Birth Story

  1. This is so beautiful and inspiring! Congrats in your VBAC and gorgeous boys.

  2. Wonderful story, thank you so much for sharing! Congrats!

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