A very special birth story today! Mama Kayla shares her journey to a VBAC with the birth of her second child at Sentara Williamsburg.
Kayla’s story is a lovely illustration of how a difficult first birth experience can inspire a woman to approach her next birth with great thought, self-education, and care — increasing her chances that her birth will be healing, empowering, and aligned with her ideal, as Kayla’s was for her!
Kayla, congratulations on your beautiful baby boy, and on your triumphant VBAC! Thank you for sharing your experience with us all!
To read all of the birth stories in our Local Birth Story Series, click here. Hospital births, home births, birth center births, births with OBs, births with midwives — all are represented!
THE BIRTH OF DECLAN: AN EMPOWERING VBAC EXPERIENCE
To tell this story I need to back up a bit and start with my first birth.
I was raised with home birth and all the now “hippy” trendy stuff, not because of my parents’ life choices but because we were poor. Things like disposable diapers and formula that so many people take for granted these days were luxuries to my parents. To me, it was normal and natural to breastfeed and to plant flowers where you buried the placenta. So when I found out I was expecting my first son, the thought of having an epidural never entered my mind, let alone ever in my wildest thoughts did I think I would need a C-section.
Growing up, I was always told I had nice birthing hips by my mother. I had never really imagined my own births, but I knew if my mother could do it unmedicated, so could I. When I found out my son was still breech at 37 weeks, I thought, “No big deal, babies can turn at the last minute.” As my due date came closer and closer, my doctors said I would need a C-section. I was like, “What do you mean? So what if he’s breech? People have breech babies vaginally all the time.” Little did I know at the time that was not the case with first babies in the world of western medicine. I ended up having my C-section at 39 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to go into labor on my own. I always thought, “Once a C-section, always a C-section,” and my chances of ever having a natural unmedicated birth were history. I was devastated. I cried every step of the way because in my eyes, my whole pregnancy and birth experience was just robbed from me.
When I found out 15 months later I was expecting again, I was determined to do everything I could to make this birth — no matter the outcome — something I could live with emotionally.
After months of research on VBAC’s, and switching doctors back and forth, I was ready mentally to go for it. I had everything I thought would up my chances. Finally on Thursday November 30th around 1:30 in the afternoon, I thought I was in labor. I was having horrible sharp pains that would wrap around my whole lower body, and they were becoming regular. Since I never went into labor with my first, I thought this had to be it. So I called my doula and my doctor. My wonderful doula came over around 8 or 9 in the evening and we pretty much sat around watching Lost until my curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to be checked. We got to L&D around midnight. I was only 1 cm dilated, and I was advised to go home and rest. The next morning I woke up to nothing, no pain. I thought, “Okay, it must have just been false labor,” and went about my day a little embarrassed for overreacting, seeing as I was only 38 weeks. Went to bed that night contemplating how much longer I had because I was so over being pregnant.
Saturday I woke up cramping. It was definitely a different feeling than the day before. I went to the bathroom, and I was spotting a little. I thought to myself, “Bloody show?” and started getting excited because the baby was on his way out. I woke up my husband a couple hours later because I wanted to make sure it was real this time. I called my sister-in-law so she could begin the drive from Pennsylvania to watch my son so I could labor. I called my doctor and doula again around 10 am and told them my contractions were about 3 mins apart (so I thought). I was timing them myself because my silly husband couldn’t work a smart phone. Around noon we decided to go back to L&D, and my doula met us there. I was checked and told I was at 3 cm and about 75% effaced. At this point the hospital indicated that if I wanted to I could walk around for a bit and see if labor would speed up. About an hour later they checked me and there didn’t seem to be any progress, so we left and picked up some lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, as the L&D nurse suggested spicy wings to speed up labor.
I walked into Wild Wings and the first thing I heard was, “You better not go into labor!” I laughed and said, “Too late.” This whole time, of course, I was having contractions and stopping to breathe through them. I could still talk fine and joke around.
At home I went walking and took long showers. The contractions were still steady at 3 mins apart. Around 6 pm we went back to L&D because I was sure I had progressed to at least 4 cm and could be admitted. I was only 3 1/2 cm and exhausted. The OB offered to admit me so I could have a medicated rest, but I opted to go back home. I knew if I went too early my chances of a repeat C-section would go up. I felt so bad for apparently calling my doula yet again for a false alarm. Back at home I was determined to get this baby out. I convinced my husband that sex would help, hoping it would break my water or do something. Around midnight I was like okay this is it, there has to be something they can do at the hospital to make this stop or speed up. I was so tired at this point I would have paid 5 times the amount if they would just do another C-section. This time the OB checked me and I was still only 3 1/2 cm. At that news I just broke into tears. He politely told me because I was only 38 weeks +4 days pregnant, they couldn’t give me Pitocin to speed labor up, and that they weren’t allowed to alter the course of labor until 39 weeks. Embarrassed for going to L&D for what felt like the 19th time, I found my resolve yet again, and we went back home.
I sent the doula home to get some sleep because apparently I was still in early labor, just having constant 3-min-apart contractions. I was so tired and in tears and my contractions seemed to never end. Around 5 am we went back to L&D because I was so tired I just wanted to sleep. I asked the OB over the phone if I could finally do the medicated rest if I still wasn’t progressing. He told me yes and to come on in.
By this time I had been in labor for 24 hours with 3-min-apart contractions that just weren’t being effective.
They made me fill out all the paperwork and took me to a room. We called the doula and let her know what we decided to do. The doctor told us it would either make me sleep or I would burn through the medication and really start progressing. I think it was around 6 am when they finally gave it to me. The timeline becomes a bit fuzzy from this point on. I burned through the medication pretty fast and by 8 am I was at 5 cm. I finally had this huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I was progressing and my VBAC was looking more and more possible. I got in the birthing tub for I don’t know how long. It felt so good but I wanted to dunk my head in the water and for some reason I thought maybe that wasn’t allowed during labor. I just couldn’t fully relax in the tub. I got out and went back to the bed. I was hooked up on monitors the entire time because of the VBAC, and I was so tired I didn’t want to move.
The big thing I really made a point of wanting was the ability to move around during labor so I could help the baby out but I ended up laying in the hospital bed on one side or the other gripping the railings in pain. I’m sure I was not in the best position to labor but I just didn’t want to move. I remember my doula walking in the room and me becoming more and more dramatic. At one point I lost myself in some kind of hallucination and said something to my doula. I just remember my husband saying, “What is she talking about?”
I’m not sure what time it happened but the anesthesiologist came in to introduce himself at some point. I was at 7 cm now, and I knew if I made it this far, I could do it with no epidural. Another doctor came in when I was at 9 1/2 cm and finally broke my water which by this point I was okay with. Shortly after this point, I started screaming for drugs but the anesthesiologist was in the ER and unavailable.
Finally I thought I was ready to push. It took me a while to figure out that I should wait and sync up the contractions with the urge to push. I was tiring myself out even more by pushing in between contractions. Something to remember for next time. I pushed for an hour and 40 minutes and then with a gush, out came the baby. His cord was short so they couldn’t hand him right to me. We waited for his cord to stop pulsing, they cut it, and then they handed him to me. I just had a very successful unmedicated VBAC with little intervention, and I almost couldn’t believe it. In the end I had very few complications. I received a second degree tear which honestly I never really noticed, and my bladder became distended due to being in labor for so long. Besides those few things I couldn’t have had a more perfect labor and birth of my son. He was 7 lbs 12 oz and 18 inches long with the fullest head of dark brown hair I have ever seen on a baby.
Looking back now, I don’t understand how anyone could have a baby any way but unmedicated. The recovery is so much easier. I was up and out of bed as soon as I was sewn up, breathless but mobile. I won’t deny the pain of labor but my memory of it has transformed into something so positive. I almost can’t wait to do it again as the entire experience has left me feeling empowered and proud. However, after everything was said and done, even if this labor had ended with another C-section, I think I would have been okay with it, because this time, I was an active participant in my birth experience. Instead of being told I could not labor, I was able to have my son in the manner I wanted. I was able to choose to labor, to choose to labor unmedicated, to choose to labor on the hospital bed clutching the side rail. Even if I’d chosen an epidural, I strongly believe that in the end whatever choice you end up making during labor is a choice well made.
Hospital: Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center
Doula: Mandy Bealer, 757.272.2254, email@example.com